Sara, Logan and I, with trailer in tow, headed down the 401 via the 407/412 combo (amazing Toronto bypass!) on our way to Lake Placid to watch the Ironman. We were pumped to cheer on our great friends Diane and Mark Trafford from Bobcaygeon (they have a golf cart).
Check this pic out - no filter. We drove the Traffords into town (we stayed about 15k outside of Placid in Wilmington) to get a short pre-race swim in. This is Mirror Lake. The swim course lies just beyond the pier.
Here's Mark and Diane with the Ironman plaque lakeside. This race was Mark's 9th IM and his 8th time doing Lake Placid. For Diane, it was technically number 2 after toeing the line a couple of years ago. I say "technically" because, for Diane, the race did not go as planned (through absolutely no fault of her own) and she was unable to finish. For a more detailed recap of what happened click on my race report below.
One of the main challenges of the race is the climb from Wilmington to Lake Placid. The climb represents 1000ft of elevation over 12 miles and the athletes do it twice. It is a key feature especially on the second loop with 160k of riding complete and a marathon to contend with post climb.
Here's Sara with Whiteface Mountain in the background. Stunning! The mountain looks great too - haha!
I took this pic of the transition area literally minutes before athletes began racking their bikes at 10:00am. The oval is a perfect venue for a triathlon. The athletes at the end come in the left side and the finish line is on the right.
The flags flying outside the arena, site of the famous US Olympic hockey victory, next to the transition.
Diane with her transition bags. Along with racking their bike the day before the race, you also have to drop off your transition bags. The Trafford kids, Tyler and Jordan, along with Jordan's girlfriend Alexis (better known as Lexi), arrived to cheer as well. I call Tyler and Jordan kids despite the fact they are grown men now - it's a habit given I've known them for 16 years now. Anyway, Lexi came up with a great idea with some red travel cups. The problem with the transition bags is, when it rains, it can leak water into the bag and bugger up your stuff. Lexi poked a hole in the bottom and fed the string through and, voila, a protective cover. I suggested she put an M-Dot on it and charge $5.00 per cup and she'd probably make some fast cash.
Meanwhile, for those of us not racing, this was the scene. Lots of athletes were staying at the KOA. You could tell by how early it got super quiet by 10:00pm.
Race morning. Spectacular weather for race day. It was going to be a warm one but the humidity was not too bad. Because Logan was with us, we opted to not travel into Placid for the swim. We stayed in the Wilmington area because there are a couple of good spots to see the bike course. We had a bit of time before the athletes arrived so we got a run in.
Near the start of the climb to Lake Placid. Despite the cold winters the area gets, the road surfaces are great.
Although we did not see the swim, Diane posted this pic of the foggy morning. Diane reported the swim buoys were tough to make out. At first she thought her goggles were fogged up but, this time, Mother Nature was having a bit of fun.
Coming into Upper Jay we got our first glimpse of the Trafford Duo. They were in great spirits and smiling. Here's Mark looking smooth.
Here's Mark around 160k still looking good. Sara and I, on the other hand, were chowing down a Coke and some All-Dressed chips. Clearly these inspirational performances did not deter us from eating some junk food.
Check out that smile - love it! Once Diane rolled by we quickly got into the truck and drove the reverse of the bike course to Lake Placid. We were concerned about missing Mark and Diane on the first loop of the run. We caught a break as the road leading into town was clear. As we headed in we decided to stop at the ski jumps parking lot because we figured Mark and Diane would come by shortly. We ended up missing Mark but managed to see Diane come by around 5k into her first run loop.
Once at the base of the ski jumps, the athletes do about a 7k out and 7k back along River Road. This pic is the view as you head out of that section. I ventured out down that road with hopes of meeting up with Mark on his way back. I had a mountain bike but was not permitted to ride down the road. I was able to walk, however, so I walked about a kilometre and found some shade. While waiting Mark's arrival and cheering athletes on, Mark and Diane's oldest boy Tyler walked up. He was also trying to find Mark. I tend to try and find quieter spots away from the crowded areas to cheer because I feel this is where the athletes need the encouragement most. A simple clap and some kind words are always appreciated.
After about 30 minutes we saw Mark approaching and walking as we suspected. He told us he was having stomach issues (which has plagued him for a while now). He was unable to take any nutrition in and it was apparent he was running on low fuel. He figured he would shuffle when he could and walk if needed. The pic above is near the horse grounds with Tyler in the white sunglasses. I knew Mark would be able to get it done despite feeling crappy - he's dealt with this before and had seen it through.
A few minutes after Mark went by is when smiling Diane came through. She found a friend in Jessi and the two were pushing each other along. Diane was still smiling and feeling good. It's amazing the contrasts in an Ironman - some are feeling great, others feeling awful. Diane would catch up to Mark a few minutes later. Diane told me they made a pact that if she were to catch Mark she would continue on and not stay with him. I know Mark would not want it any other way - he'd feel brutal about impacting Diane's race, especially given it was her first finish. It was the right call but still tough when you see your significant other hurting.
We left the horsegrounds/ski jumps and went "downtown". We parked near Mike's Pizzaria halfway up the long uphill and waited for Diane heading out for lap 2 of the run. She cruised by with her race friend Jessi and was still moving great. It's usually at this point when the body starts to say "what the hell are you doing?!".
We did not see Diane or Mark for a while given the last time we saw them was around the 13 mile mark and the time they would cruise by again would be the 24 mile mark of the marathon. As it started to get dark Diane came into view. She was walking up the long hill, like many others, which is a smart strategy given there is still another small out and back to contend with along Mirror Lake. This long hill is quite a challenge especially at this point in the race. The good thing is that there are lots of people around. Diane got a shot of support with the all of us there going crazy!
Lexi and Diane - Diane, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!! Well done, chicky! What a journey it's been. Good on you for coming back to Placid and finishing the job. You did amazing - we're all proud of you!
My phone battery died so I was unable to get more pics from Mark's run. Mark had a rough time for the remainder of the run - he had a lot of difficulty getting in nutrition and fluids. Sara rode the mountain bike out to River Road and followed him to town. He was quite dehydrated and understandably depleted. He knew he had lots of time to make it official so he kept moving forward as best as he could. For the last short out and back Tyler and I stayed with him. Once he got sight of the decline leading to the oval and the finish he was able to get a shuffle going. Tyler and I heard Mike Reilly call out his name so we knew he was good. Mark we're all proud of you for getting it done. We know it was difficult but you did it! Congrats!! The pic above really captures the day - it's such a great moment. The Traffords were successful in their Ironman journey!
Diane Trafford: overall time of 14:49.01
Mark Trafford: overall time of 15:58.17
So now on to the most important business! Diane said if she managed to finish ahead of Mark he would agree to renew their wedding vows. A deal's a deal right Mark?! To promote this I'm including their original wedding picture. Diane hasn't changed much. Mark still has that Zoolander "Blue Steel" pose down. Mark - you could even bring back the stache!
As with any Ironman journey, support is needed and welcomed. Above is Team Trafford (L-R): Diane, Tyler (son), Mark, Jordan (son), and Lexi (Jordan's sweety - a wonderful young lady).
Back in Bobcaygeon doing recovery right with their golf cart. Also proudly sporting her finisher's shirt.
Check out that view. Not a bad setting to reflect on the race and realize what an amazing accomplishment it truly was. Congrats Traffords!!