Lynn, Amy, and Jeff got into Burlington around noon, and we collected the rental car and headed out for the drive to Placid. Lunch was at Al's Fries, which is apparently a Vermont institution, much like Ben & Jerry's. The drive was quite lovely, with rolling hills and lovely farms, and included a ferry ride across Lake Champlain. As we crossed the lake, we could see the looming mountains of the Adirondacks in front of us.
We got into Lake Placid around 3:30 that afternoon, and immediately hit the Oval--the speedskating ring from the 1980 olympics which is repurposed for the transition area for the Ironman. It's always so amazing to see that sea of bikes, racked and ready for the race, the field of race bags hanging, and athletes everywhere. When I volunteered at Florida last year, I didn't get in on time to make it to Ironman Village before the race, and the morning of I was volunteering as a body marker. The excitement at Placid was palpable the day before the race, and very catchy. I was thrilled to be there, but also humbled--is it possible that in 3 short months I'll be in their shoes, trained and ready to race?
That evening we met up for dinner with the rest of the TriGirl/Maramarc crew that had driven up earlier. Quite a few of them were able to ride the bike course, and I was relieved to hear from TriGirl40 (who reportedly hated the hills from our second blue ridge ride) that she LOVED the bike course. That's when I started thinking, "Well, yeah, maybe I can do this one after all." The group had also managed to swim the course, and reported the lake pristine and warm enough not to require a wetsuit. We all went to dinner, and had a good time. TriGirl Shelley stayed with me in town since she was volunteering as a wet suit stripper and had to report for duty at 6am, the rest of the crew stayed at the group house about 15 miles away, up in the mountains.
Race morning was cool and overcast, and the weather report was not good--calling for rain all day. But it wasn't just rain--it was monsoon type rain. All day long it poured, at times so heavy that it sounded like a stampede. I had a great view of the swim portion of the race. My hotel room was right on the lake, about 1500m from the turn around bouys. I pulled a chair onto the dock, and heard the national anthem play, and watched both the pros and age groupers take off. From my vantage point, it looked like a wonderful swim. Only when I got home, did I realize how brutal the Lake Placid swim start is. For a good first hand account, read Mary Eggers blog. Over the next year, I will need to learn to swim defensively, and try to get in as much in-water swim start practice as possible.
At about 8am the rain started to pick up, and I was able to watch the rest of the swim from the dry hotel room window. I met up with Lynn and Jeff for breakfast, around 9:30, and they had watched the swim start too, but were already soaking wet! Our waiter was a dear and gave us some large trash bags to wear over our clothes. We then trundled downtown to watch the first of the pros come through on their way to their second bike loop. Man those guys are fast! After a short respite and swim in the lake, it was soon time to go volunteer.
The volunteer slot I was given was to work in the bag section of transition--as athletes come into T2 (transition #2) from bike to run, their race number is called out. A volunteer runs to their racked bag containing their run gear, collects it, and gets it to the athlete before they hit the changing tent. On Saturday I wasn't able to find anyone still in the Oval to pick up my shirt and wrist band, but since Amy and Lynn were slated to work in the medical tent, I decided to work with them instead. Am I glad I did! I felt so bad for all those out racing--battling horrible conditions including wet roads, wet decents, wet running shoes, wet everything. The medical tent was blessedly dry and warm--TriGirl Cyndi had worked as a bike catcher in T2, and ended up wearing plastic bags inside her shoes in an effort to keep her feet dry. TriGirl Fave's boyfriend Greg reported that the inside of the transition tent was a mud pit. Yuck.
When we reported for duty at 3pm, there were only a few patient/athletes inside the tent, and what looked like WAY too many beds (ah, lawn chairs). From what I heard, I knew by late that evening, most of the beds would be full. Around 4:30 we started seeing the pros come in--I hate to say it, but they absolutely trash themselves. They can't walk, and frankly look like hell. But after a couple of IV bags, some food and gatorade or hot chicken broth, they become human again. Since we weren't trained medical professionals (doctor, nurse, or emt), Lynn and I were runners--taking care of things such as grabbing IV start kits, warm IV bags, blankets, food, or thermometers, to helping remove shoes, change clothes, and flip beds for new patients. Like last year in Florida, it was great to be able to help the athletes, and many were extremely grateful for our care. By the time our shift was up at 8pm, that tent was innundated with athletes, most of whom had won that battle against the elements and finished. We did see our share of those that didn't--at 6:30 I ran outside to get some pizza for one of the athletes and saw a woman still in bike helmet and cleats who had just come in from the bike, an hour after the cutoff. She was in tears and walking around like a lost soul. I felt so bad for her.
We met up with Jeff, who had spent over 6 hours in the rain at an aid station along the run course, Greg and his friends at a restaurant/bar in town. Instead of following Lynn and Amy's suggestions on wine, I decided it was martini time. We ate, and drank, and caught up with the guys--swapping volunteer stories and having a good time. After martini #3 was when that drinker's remorse kicked in--and lasted until about this morning! Lynn and Amy were both able to eat a slice of pizza in the volunteer tent, but I didn't. Two of those martinis were on an empty stomach, and #3 came during/after dinner. Big mistake. Greg was a dear and kept me company outside while I emptied my stomach, then we all said good night and trundled our separate ways. Lynn and Amy ended up staying with me at the hotel while Jeff drove back up the mountain to stay at the group house.
He must not have had much sleep, since he was knocking on the door at 7:30, getting most of us up to go stand in line for sign ups. Needless to say, I still wasn't feeling any where near good. After they left, I had to really struggle to haul my sorry ass out of bed, get dressed, and walk down to meet them in line. The whole time I kept telling myself, "This is why you're here--suck it up!" The kind folks in line behind us lent me a stool to sit on, and as soon as I had that signed paper and an IMLP slot in hand, I left the celebrating TriGirls to huff it back to the hotel and dry heave some more. The drive back to Burlington that afternoon became less painful as the aspirin kicked in and I was able to eat again. I parted company with the group, whose flight was supposed to leave at 4:30 and went to lie down and wait for my plane at 7:30. The drive home from Dulles was tough--I was tired, hungry, and still somewhat hungover. I kept thinking, "What am I doing signing up for IMLP?!" Today I've resolved to put it out of my head, focus on the task at hand, and get through Florida. Then I'll worry about it. As Scarlett O'Hara claimed, "Tomorrow is another day!"