Tuesday 30 June 2009

Lake Placid Interlude

A View of Lake Placid, New York

As part of our United Way campaign at the office last year, we were asked to contribute to an an on-line auction. Although, this being the Foreign Service, some people came up with things like Fujian cork sculptures that had haunted dark closets for years, I decided that since I really wanted to ride the Ironman bike course at Lake Placid, New York.

Lake Placid is known as the site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games, but it has other noteworthy things. It was the home of the Trudeau Hospital, established in 1885 as a sanitarium to deal with tuberculosis as the trend in those days was to treat people with fresh mountain air. It was also home to a group of abolotionists, including the famous John Brown. After his famous raid on the Harper's Ferry Federal Arsenal failed, he was tried and executed and his body was returned to Lake Placid. His home is a small museum and his grave is located in front of it. But we must return to the outdoor sports theme as it really is the kind of place where people naturally go hiking or canoeing or, even, cycling.

My United Way offer was for transportation there, the opportunity to ride the 90 km course (the triathletes do two circuits), a chance to cycle up the toll road to Whiteface Mountain (if so inclined) and dinner at the Lake Placid Brewing Company before the trip back to Ottawa. Amazingly, there were several bidders for the chance to ride with me (or drink beer) and after the auction the winner, Gwyn, and I agreed to pick a suitable date once the weather became good enough to do the ride.

This Sunday we were fortunate as the weather was perfect. Departing Ottawa at 6 a.m., we drove across the border via Ogdensburg, New York (the more convenient Cornwall crossing is presently closed) and headed south. For some reason, the creatures of Upstate New York were attracted to my car, including a large wild turkey hen that looked at us and then jumped into the road ahead of the car. But no harm done...

The Ice Center where the famous 1980 U.S.-Soviet Union hockey game for the gold medal took place

There was no traffic to speak of us we passed through small villages and soon found ourselves in the Adirondack State Park, which occupied one-quarter of New York State. By 9:30 a.m. we entered Lake Placid's busy Main Street and found a large municipal parking lot where we could leave the car. There was a clean washroom there as well and I changed into cycling gear and just after 10:00 a.m. we headed out on the open road, State Road 73. We passed a big horse show taking place at the local fairgrounds.

The course, which I downloaded from the Internet at www.gpsies.com began with a few little rollers and soon, just past the Olympic Sports Complex, we enjoyed some massive descents that saw some high speeds on excellent new asphalt. Unfortunately, Route 73 has more traffic than I would have expected on a Sunday morning, with the majority of traffic being large pick-up trucks, many towing boats. Although we enjoyed the downhill parts, it was with some relief that we turned onto Route 9N in Keene. The road was quite lovely, with a small river to our left and very few cars to contend with. We played road tag with two triathletes out on their bikes, and we were to see a great number of them during the day. Lake Placid, traditionally a huntin' and fishin' place and then a low-key summer resort, has found a new role catering to very thin and very fast tri-geeks. The Ironman race held each July here since 1997 is one of only six sanctioned by the Ironman organizers in the United States.

Unfortunately, our enjoyable ride along 9N towards Upper Jay was interrupted by a flat tire. My rear tire was not actually flat but was clearly losing air. I discovered I had not brought my Speedlever to change the tire and I was apprehensive about getting the very tight-fitting Hutchinson tubeless tire back on so we could complete the ride. So I just inflated the tire with a CO2 cartridge and hoped for the best. Of course, that is not always the best policy since a few miles on the tire had clearly gone soft again. Luckily, Gwyn had some tire levers and when I put in the tube I was able to get the tire back on without too much difficulty. Using my second (and last) cartridge, everything worked perfectly and we were back on the road in less than 15 minutes. It was clear that I had tried to take the tire one trip too far since the Hutchinson tread was looking pretty shredded.

Outside of Jay we turned left onto Route 86. There was a bit of climbing here but nothing too hard although there was some traffic. Reaching the village of Wilmington, we turned right onto Hasleton Road, an out-and-back leg where we saw a lot of triathletes. Doubling back after 8 kms, we returned to Route 86. We passed the road to Whiteface Mountain (the 8 mile climb was a bit more than we wanted to do today) and headed towards High Falls Gorge.

This stetch of road was also quite lovely, with a rapidly running river to our right. We saw fly fishermen standing on the rocks and high cliffs above us. It was beginning to get hot but, as if on cue, a dark cloud passed over. No rain but it cooled the air nicely.

Main Street, Lake Placid

The last third of the course is a gentle climb and was easy to do. At one point, I rode with one of the training triathletes. She looked very fit but when we came to the climb she definitely could not keep us with. I think if I had been riding my time trial bike I would have not gone as quickly either, given gearing and geometry. With 92 kms under our tires, we rolled back into Lake Placid. The organizers of the course had been smart to put the big descent at the start and the gradual climb at the end, but the final climb back up into the town itself was pretty steep for tired legs! But it was nice to have over 1000 meters of climbing in the bank...

Sampling our Beer Sampler

After getting cleaned up as much as possible, we walked along Main Street, which was bustling on this late Sunday afternoon. After a bit of effort, we found the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, which operates a small bar and restaurant, and we were able to get a table on the deck outside. We went with the sampler of their six available beers to get started. They were very good, and I was surprised at the coffee flavour that you could detect in the Sunrise Stout. I had a pint of 46'er Pale Ale, which had a pronounced hoppiness, while Gwyn tried the Moose Island Golden Ale.

Back to the car and we were on the road again (with a quick stop at Mountain Mist Ice Cream to celebrate our excellent ride). We were back in Ottawa by 10 p.m with a sense of a day well spent.


Lily on the Road said...

Sounds like a wonderful day!

This past weekend was the final training camp for the guys and gals who are participating in the Ironman Lake Placid on July 26th.

Several of my friends were down there. They have the opportunity to swim Mirror Lake, ride the course, meet the other triathlete's and discuss strategy with some top athlete's. There were focus groups, bike tune-ups and lectures.

Quite exciting. I'll be body marking at IMLP this year.

Will said...

An interesting idea that seems to have become a fantastic trip .... well done

Abram said...

It is gorgeous up there and, yes, the final climb up is quite the challenge.

My partner and I did the Ironman bicycle course in April 2007, with a little dusting of snow still in the fields and on Whiteface Mountain and oh so fresh, crisp mountain air.

We had not prepared at all over the winter and therefore took our time taking in the scenery,stopping at a cafe in Keene (I think) and snapping pictures here and there.

You mention a flat, which reminds me that we took a real risk having forgotten our tubes and repair kit at home. But we made it around the course without incident.

A wonderful experience!