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Mellen’s 2017 Lake Placid 70.3 Race Report

Mellen’s 2017 Lake Placid 70.3 Race Report

So, basically, I’m just going to go straight to race morning… when we got up some kind of very, very early.

I know, nothing new on race morning; but the Clif Organic Energy food banana maple oatmeal packet looked so much more appealing than a Clif bar. I had one with my morning coffee, and a second in Louis’ truck (total calories 280 + coffee with lots of milk) as we drove in the very cold, very dark morning air to park near the swim start.

It was very dark, and very, very cold. I was wearing just about every layer that I had brought to New York state, plus my brand-new Lake Placid athlete name hoodie (50% off, since it was misprinted with the incorrect athlete names).

We’d arrived reallllllly early to transition, but it was great: I had time to clean and lube my chain after racking my poor bike in the rain the day before, pump my tires, use the bathrooms at least 3x, put my bike shoes with neoprene toe covers set up for a flying mount with elastics on my bike. I also laid out my transition zone: helmet & fleecy armwarmers made from a pair of dollar store footed tights (I made Paul, Louis and Irina headbands cut from the thighs of the tights too. Best $3 ever spent), and shoes, socks race belt and hat for the run.

I also brought old flipflops (they were actually from when I lived in Australia, so I think that makes them thongs) which I had been meaning to use as throwaways at a race, but kept forgetting to pack them. Well, I remembered them this time, and their foamy soles kept my feet alive. Lesson learned: buy cheap thongs and fleecy flooted tights at Dollarama for chilly races.

Swim 35:34 – 16th in AG

The swim start wasn’t as nice as the self-seeded rolling starts at 70.3s Tremblant or Whistler. They weren’t really releasing athletes a few at a time every 3 seconds, and more like letting us stream out from the gates in a flow. I definitely kicked and punched and bumped a lot before finding some clear water away from the underwater cable. I never could find a rhythm through the whole swim, and felt like I was always getting jostled. Louis had a really strong swim from his start position further up (although he is also a fish). Next time, try: starting at the front of my self-seeded swim time, not the back.





T1 – 1st in AG

I tried to wake up my feet by kicking, but they were numb and threatening to cramp. So I skipped the wetsuit strippers, ran out of the water and towards transition, pulling my wetsuit down to my waist as I ran. The carpet ended about halfway, and thankfully my feet were warm enough to hurt as I ran over pavement and pebbles and into transition. Thanks to landmarking and doing 3x practice run-ins in transition, I know exactly where my bike was racked. I pulled off my wetsuit, whacked on my helmet and rolled on my armwarmer-mittens and started running with my bike. Run to mount line in bare feet, hop onto bike. Happy with my transition, happier to be on my bike.

Bike 4:57 – 1st in AG

A fter the first few turns out of Lake Placid, past the ski jumps, I was just getting settled on the bike and starting to generate some body heat on the first little climb of the bike course….thinking to myself that while I was definitely cold, that Zindine’s advice was, as usual, spot-on and that I would be fine in my Dollarama tights-as-armwarmers-with-mitts. I couldn’t feel my toes, but I knew they’d be ok with the neoprene toe covers. Cold, but ok. I know what frostbite feels like, this was nowhere near. Lesson learned: Less is more, when it comes to clothing. A lot of people were in jackets that were flapping and creating a lot of drag.

Just as I was thinking about Zindine… Zindine flies by on his bike. Up the hill, pushing 10,000 watts. Seriously, it was like being passed by someone on Zwift who entered their weight or calibrated their trainer incorrectly. It just wasn’t possible.

I had just warmed up, and then the descent into Keene came up. There was still a lot of traffic, big male engines passing both slowly and quickly, and the pavement wasn’t perfect, so I actually braked quite a bit on the twisty descents. I kinda wish I hadn’t: hearing later about Paul’s amazing top speed (90 km/h) on that descent.

I settled into my power groove and got comfortably warm again; when a group of 4 guys caught up to me all at once. They came by in a mob, drafting each other and then latched on to me. They kept passing each other and me, but in a pace line/draft, not dropping back 10 metres and then moving up to pass legally. I had to keep dropping back or passing to maintain my 10-metre distance, and several times one would try to pass, but wouldn’t pass the whole line, and instead try to insert himself into my 10-metre draft space. I yelled at the 2 worst offenders few times, and commiserated with the one guy who was following the rules. I was mid-yell when I heard a motorcycle and a shout “YOU HAVE A 5 MINUTE PENALTY”. Oh no. I look over, it’s an official on a motorcycle holding up a yellow card. One of the guys asks “Who?” and the official says “All of you… except the girl”. Ha! Although I felt badly for the nice guy.

That either settled the guys down a little – or I figured I’d wasted enough energy being angry with them – so I tucked down onto my bike in my best aero position against the headwind and did my best to just hold my target wattage and watch for the top women coming back the opposite direction. I passed Louis again on an out-and-back, and he said later that I had a whole line of dudes drafting behind me.

As the climbing started I finally left them behind and started to think of picking off the women riders I had seen the opposite way. I dug deep, and decided to go with Scott from Cyclepath Brampton’s advice: just put it all out there on the bike and see what happens. I’d already qualified for Worlds in South Africa (which had been my goal for Lake Placid), so if I blew up: no big deal. I started passing women, got warm enough to remove and then throw away my arm warmers at the 3rd aid station… and managed to drop my chain putting a big pass on this one girl that I’d been chasing for so long. Lessons learned: don’t cross your chain. Ever. I did catch and pass her again though, although it was tough.

Bike nutrition: I ate my planned 3 Gus, as well as my 4th emergency Gu. I refilled my XLAB bottle 2x with water, and used 2 full nuun tablet in each, as the half-strength nuun tasted too watery.

I sailed over the 3 Bears climbs, focusing on looking for their “names” spray painted on the pavement, feeling strong and surprisingly fresh even after putting out a big effort into the headwind and on the long steady grind uphill back to transition.

T2 – 2nd in AG

I got my feet out maybe a smidgen too early and pedalled on top of my shoes for quite a long way through Lake Placid, but finally there was the dismount line. As I hit the ground running with my bike, I realized my feet were still pretty numb. If it’s that cold again, I think I need socks or chemical toe warmers.

I got into transition, racked up my bike, and sat down in the grass as I put my socks & shoes on. I’m sure it cost me an extra 30 seconds, but I was out of transition feeling good.

Run 1:45:07 – 2nd in AG

My feet were definitely numb for the first few km, but I tried to think of everything else. Turning onto Riverside Drive past the ski jumps I caught up to Louis, it was a funny moment – and definitely gave a good boost to keep running strong.

I was starting to heat up by 8k, and started splashing my suit to keep cool at the aid stations, as well as a little sip of water. I planned to take my Gu in thirds starting earlier in the run – and this went over better than taking it all in one shot at the halfway point. I also downed a tiny cup of Red Bull with about 5k to go: it gave me wings in Tremblant, so I figured repeat that. It was glorious. I also took 3 Saltstick tablets for electrolytes. Nutrition goals achieved.

This run is very hilly, and mentally challenging with all the uphills and long out-and-backs. I ended up running beside this one guy almost thewhole time. Every time I passed Louis or Zindine or Paul or Phaedra at the out-and-backs, I’d get this surge of energy from seeing them and be able to push the pace – the same would happen if the guy saw one of his buddies. We kept encouraging each other with our “buddy boosts” . This camaraderie and suffering-togetherness is what I love the most about triathlon. So when Irina, wearing her amazing super-kitty tank, crossed in the opposite direction the bottom of the BIG hill up into town, and shouted that I was in the top 10 women… it brightened my day better than Red Bull, and my instant run buddy said “there is girl #9, let’s go get her”. So we did. And somehow, I managed to just run down one more girl too, one who had passed me early on. By the time I reached the final out and back I was running hard and scared, just wanting my passes to hold and counting those oncoming women. I knew I could see the first places in both womens and mens’ fields…. And then I saw Zindine. I swear he was in the top 20 men and running strong. I shouted and hollered and whooped – and I’m glad to know he looks like he’s going to murder somebody when racing… because he looked murderous.


Those last kms dragged as I was running, but finally reaching the finisher’s chute I kept charging, thinking of Tammy Purdy’s run at Muskoka 70.3 and how she found the kick to run some crazy pace in her last km. I had hoped to break 5 hours again, but knew that I was way over… but I was happy to have put it all out there and hoping to place well. I remembered to smile at the finish line, and the best part started: Friends!


Zindine met up with me in the finish area, he was a few minutes ahead; Louis was not far behind either. Then we met up with our “race crew” and had just enough time to be pictured in this state to check the Ironman app and get set up for Paul’s finish.



We limped over to pick up our gear from the dry clothes drop off at the swim start – really well organised and we were able to get our things right away. Finally, I think we could walk enough to make it down the hill to the barricades to cheer on Irina as she ran in to the finish, running strong.





All in all, a great race: incredible venue, amazingly well-organised. The course was just challenging enough: but incredibly scenic and I definitely benefitted from the cool fall conditions. I would highly recommend this race to anyone who enjoys Muskoka 70.3 or Tremblant 70.3, and besides; it’s Lake Placid – so much history! I’ll see it again next July for the full Ironman.





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