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Fire and Ice Ultra – Race Report

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.





Half Ironman Lake Placid – Mini Race Report by Zindine

The why

Irina and I were looking for a different Ironman event to do after Tremblant. Good reviews from common friends as well as easier logistics put Lake Placid on the map for us. So last year we decide to sign up for the inaugural Half Ironman. The event sold out in a few hours. In retrospect this was one of the best half ironman races we took part in. Louis, Mellen and Paul joined us for the adventure! 🙂

Getting there

It’s a short drive really (about 7 hours) but we broke it in two and spent the night in Kingston because we like it there. That was really good as we arrived in Placid before lunch and were able to register as soon as the doors opened.

Overall Organization/Expo/Ironman Store

Everything was well marked, we never had issue with parking, the expo had lots of different stores for our last minutes need. The Ironman store as usual was good at getting into your wallet 😛 The transition area was large and well positioned next to the finish line and stands.


























We rented a house about 2K from transition. It came with all we needed. The price was high. The highest we’ve had to pay for a race rental. We ended up cooking a lot and eating out very little because there were not a lot of choices in the town. So having a kitchen ended up being very important.

















Pre race workouts

We were able to swim the actual course with no issue the days prior. The water was clean, a bit cold but nothing us Ontarians are not accustomed to. We found some good running and riding routes and we felt safe all the time. Locals and drivers were very courteous.






















Race morning

We drove close to transition and found parking easily (we were very early). Otherwise there is a shuttle service that should be very convenient. We got body marked, setup our bikes, made the last tweaks and waited patiently for the race to start. It was very cold and we were all fully dressed to the last minute. The morning bag drop off was conveniently placed right at the swim start. This was very appreciated.











The swim was the warmest part of the race. Water temperature was in the low 16 °C. This was a self seeded swim. Fairly uneventful for most of us. A bit crowded in places as there is a line underwater that you can follow the whole swim. Coming out of the water was cold. Air temperature was around 4 °C.  I was in my element though. I love the cold. I used the stripper (they were not busy at all) and picked up the pace to my bike in an attempt to warm up. This worked nicely for me.


I decided against adding any extra layer. But I knew my extremities would be cold so I wore socks and gloves. Putting the gloves was a bit of a challenge. 🙂 I was out on the bike in no time though.


My plan was to work hard right out of transition again to warm up a little. I used a high cadence for about 15 minutes to raise my heart rate. That worked fairly well for me. I caught Mellen first, she looked good on the bike. She swims really well this year and was out of the water ahead of me. I caught Louis a little later on the longest descent of this bike course. The bike course is kind of cut into two pieces. The out is about 50K of a slight downhill. We also had a tailwind. I reached that turn around point at an average of 39+ kph. That was fast! That was the best part of the ride. But I knew the real work was coming. The last 40K of the ride are a constant climb back up to Lake Placid. Nothing steep, just a gradual uphill. And obviously now we were also fighting a headwind. 🙂 This was tough mentally and I found myself fairly lonely on that stretch and it was hard to stay motivated. I stayed on top of my nutrition as the cold made it hard to feel thirsty or hungry. I kept to my schedule and got off the bike in a very good shape. I was never really cold. Even broke a sweat a little. 😉


I got into transition and it was fairly empty. I was a bit surprised. But I knew I worked hard on the bike and saved a ton of time in T1 by skipping dressing up. Got my shoes on, race belt and my nutrition and off I went.


The run is similar to the ride, a lot of down on the first half, a climb back up to Lake Placid the second half. I was feeling good right away, temperature was still single digit and this is really where I am the happiest. After 3K I started hearing a bike catching up to me, this was the 3rd place lady bike. They passed me but I caught them back up a little later. The bike passed me again a few kilometers later with a new 3rd place lady. The race was on for third place. 🙂 I had no idea where I was in my age group. I just kept pushing. Made it to the turn around and knew the work was starting now. I started seeing friendly faces too from that point (Mellen was killing it, Louis looked very good, Paul was all smiles so was Irina). It was nice to see them on the course. Sorry I always look like I am about to murder someone. That’s my race face! 😛 A guy caught up to me on the hardest climb of the run and drafted me a bit sending words of encouragements. Hahahaha, it was so hard and so good at the same time. We worked together up the hill and up the final turn around. That actually helped me stay focused. Getting to the final turn around, 1 mile from the finish line was such a relief. I was on track for personal best for a half marathon off the bike. Breaking 1h40 for the first time ever and on a hard course. I was so happy. I made it to the finish line and then waited for my friends and Irina. I finished 10th in my age group, my best results at an Ironman branded race.





















Next for me is the Hamilton Marathon in November 🙂  Thanks for reading!


Wakely Dam Ultra – Race Report

Wakely Dam Ultra – 55K Trail Run in the Adirondack.

Unsupported. Point to point. “The first aid station is the finish line!”

Louis discovered this race while looking for something to do between our two main triathlon events this year (Half Ironman in Tremblant in June and Half Ironman in Placid in September). With about an hour lead time, prior to it selling out, Louis mentioned the race to me and Paul and of course we did not hesitate to sign up. It sounded like a good adventure and that’s how we roll!

We started our training back in the winter using some local races to build some mileage and stay in shape (Chilly Half and Around the Bay). As the weather got better and the trails dried a bit we started running off road on the Bruce Trail (some old routes and some attempts at new routes).

If you want some local trail running routes, here are some of the runs we did:


We did train in the mud. 🙂


We had lots of fun off the road

Especially Paul!

During training, we didn’t do particularly very long runs, but we wanted to get used to running in unfair hilly conditions of trail running. One run was early in the spring, right after a rain storm and the mud really tested our patience, strength and perseverance. After about 2 hours in the mud we were very tired and called it quits and worked our way back to the road. In retrospect, this was one of our most important training runs; 30+ KM into Wakely, we were glad we did that run!

Paul and I are rookies when it comes to trail running so in addition to training we needed quite a fair bit of equipment – Who doesn’t like buying more gear?? Louis guided us and by the time we arrived at the race we were ready to tackle the challenge. We all had a running vest which allowed us to carry a fair amount of water, nutrition and supplies as there were no aid stations from start to finish. We opted during planning to carry a limited amount of water and brought MSR Trailshot water filters from MEC (we had two for the 3 of us) to replenish our fluids at many of the lakes/rivers on the route. We packed food and other supplies included cliff bars, salt tablets, band aids, toilet paper, bodyglide, pain killers, insect repellant and gels. We also all invested in trail shoes as they offer better grip in wet conditions and oh boy did we need the extra traction.
Louis owns a pop up trailer so we decided to camp not far from the end of the race at Point Comfort Campground in Adirondacks state park. The drive to Piseco New York on Friday morning was uneventful. We got out of the GTA by just after 6AM and cruised through Kingston and 1000 islands bridge to cross the border. Camp was just a couple hours away once we got to New York State.

Our trip

Luigi’s Pizzeria

On route we stopped for lunch at a place called Luigi’s Pizza in Boonville. If you ever go around this place, don’t stop there. The food was awful, the restaurant was very ugly and it’s one of those places you know you don’t belong as soon as you walk in. It ended up being the blunt of most of the jokes for the rest of the trip, so it deserves a spot in our story – it was fun and will remain an integral part of this trip.

Shortly after Luigi’s, we arrived at camp in the early afternoon, prepared everything for the evening to come. Louis had pre-researched the camp, and although the camp itself wasn’t great, except for a crazy lone traveler from Quebec who was camping beside us – we had an awesome private site overlooking the lake.

Louis hard at work. Thanks Louis for your truck and trailer!!

After camp was set, we drove to the race site – Piseco Airport (the finish line) to get our registration kits and race swag as well as meet with the race organizers and some other runners. It looked like a good bunch of people and you could feel the tension building up. In talking with some of the people there who had actually already raced this before that we realized we were in for a challenge. The word “mud” and the expression “blowdown” kept coming up a lot! We found our later what it meant (referring to blown down trees making the actual trail impassable)

Blowdown (photo credit: Dan at breakhearttrailrunning.blogspot.ca)


Piseco Airport

Pasta Dinner

The race organizers and volunteers prepared a pre-race carb load pasta dinner for all participants and families. It was a simple but tasty dinner, with lots of home-made goodies that Paul enjoyed very much (He has such a sweet tooth).

After the pasta dinner, we made our way back to camp to put the final touches to our preparation and packing. Packs and outfits were made ready in no time and we were relaxing around a camp fire. We went to bed early as the alarms were set for 3:45am.

Surprisingly we woke up naturally – all 3 of us for some reason, our alarms were not needed. We quickly got ready, ate breakfast and made our way to the finish line back at the airport where coffee and the schoolbus were waiting for us. The bus took us to the start line – a 60+ minute drive! This ride took forever it seemed and really highlighted how far a 55km run was to be! We got to the start line with about 30 minutes to spare at 6am. As with any race, final washroom breaks and the addition of bug spraying took place and in no time we were waiting for the start of the race.

This the 17th year of the race and it always has been capped at 65 runners; something to do with the New York State Park Authorities. I believe 62 made it to the start and we all lined up for the customary pre-race picture.

We were each wearing a Half Ironman Muskoka t-shirt from a different year 🙂

The whole gang ready to start

Off we go

At 6:30am, the race director started the countdown and we were off. We got into this race not knowing exactly what the terrain would be like. We heard it would be a bit technical, a lot of beautiful scenery and very muddy.

The first 10K (about 65 minutes) were very runnable and we were loving life. The temperature was nice and cool and there were still a fair number of runners around us. We tried to settle into an easy pace that would work for all 3 of us. The further we got into the race, the more remote and the muddier it got, more mud, more technical, and more hashed the trail became. There were lots of stop and go’s and a lot of blow down trees across the trail. We kept working our way ahead and made it to 20K which is where the elevation is at it highest point during the race (most of the climbing happened between 10 and 20K). We were a bit slower in this section (about 85 minutes) there were the first nature breaks, food break and the terrain continued to get harder. Between 20K and about 34K (about 2.5 hours) is where the scenery was the most beautiful. We took several long breaks to enjoy it with mandatory picture stops. We crossed many lakes during this portion of the race. Unfortunately this part of the trail was also the most wet, but so far the temperature was still very good and the bugs were still away.

Refilling our bottles with filtered water. The water was safe and tasty.

Ned ran a bit with us and took this picture for us. Thanks Ned!

A fancy Panoramic

We crossed the Marathon distance of 42KM after about 6.5 hours. We were starting to get a bit tired and it was showing – a few pain killers were ingested around that time. 🙂 But we knew then we were close to the end.

Just past the marathon mark. We don’t look so bad. 🙂

But as we had hoped, the closer to the finish line the better the trail would be – this proved to be true.
The last 10K were mostly downhill but still very technical and still very muddy. Did I mention there was mud?

We were told there would be some orange tape indicating when we were to make our way off the trail to make our way to the finish line. About 2K left at that point. I had planned to take a picture of the tape but I forgot. To be honest we just wanted the race to be over at that point. My feet were soaked and I just wanted to get rid of my shoes. By this point in the race the sun was high, the temps were hot and the infamous bugs were showing up in force. The deer fly traps we were given in our race kits for our caps were working well. I don’t think any of us got bitten during the race. We were very surprised.

Deer fly trap worked nicely. Louis caught the most. 😉

We arrived at Piseco Airport and knew we still had to run around the runway, who knew how long runways are!!!. We put on our best smile on and crossed the finish line all together.

Ready to cross the finish line

We knew there would be a hose in the finish area, I went straight to it and got ride of my vest and soaked shoes/socks. I washed my legs and feet and it felt awesome. The cold water on my toes was awesome.

We cooled down a bit, we looked at the results and were impressed by the finish time of the winner (5h30). For us it was almost 3 hours slower (8h22). Even though we ran together and stopped for pictures and food breaks, we don’t think we could run this race in 5h30m, kudos to the winner! We will be back to do better now that we know what to expect.

We enjoyed the post race meal, had a hamburger, a few sweets and lots of yummy drinks. We socialized a little with a few finishers and watched many more runners come in. We changed into our FMCT singlets and put on our shiny new Team Panda FMCT visors and took another finish picture.

FMCT Crew Representing

After that we packed and made our way to camp.

The entire area around the race, finish line and our camp had limited to NO network/cell phone coverage. We managed to find a tiny pocket of 3G network between the finish line and our camp that was literally about 3’ wide. We huddled there as long as it took to upload our watch activities to Strava. The slow network and our exhaustion did not help, it was hilarious, but there was no way we were leaving till we got our files uploaded!! Eventually we got all 3 our activities on Strava and we could finally relax and be proud of our accomplishment.

It did not happen if it’s not on Strava! 🙂

Our campsite was not far from the lake and as soon as we arrived, we just jumped into the lake to refresh and wash off the mud and sweat. We felt much better after.

Shoes took a beating

We made our way to the only restaurant in the area called the Oxbow Inn. Several runners were there already. They recommended the pizzas and that’s what we ordered. Obviously, we were hungry. We did not last very long that evening and I don’t think it took us long to fall asleep that night. In the morning we made breakfast, packed and drove back.

Our next adventure will take place not far from this trail race as we will be in Lake Placid to race the Half Ironman.

Thank you for reading!

Louis, Paul and Zindine