Thursday, July 23, 2015

Adirondack Mountain High

My excitement reached fever pitch when I made the turn in Keene onto the bike course. The clouds shifted across the lush green mountains and played the late afternoon light, sprinkles of rain mixing with golden sun as I clapped my hands and pounded my steering wheel and belted Van Morrison out my open sunroof at the top of my lungs, thrilled beyond thrilled to finally be at Lake Placid.

I checked in to the hotel, made six trips up to the 4th floor to bring my bike, all my triathlon gear, and a week's supply of food, not to mention the few things that normal people need for a vacation. I had done my 30-minute run in the middle of my trip, when I stopped in Burlington to meet my friend Nora. I still had a 30-minute swim ahead of me, and as excited as I was to be here, I was exhausted and it took every ounce of will power to get out of the hotel at 7:30 to walk down to Mirror Lake in the light rain. My resistance was so evident as I struggled to put on my wetsuit in the failing light that a man walking by said, "You really don't want to do that, do you?"

Nope. But I have never once regretted swimming. This time was no different. The moment I slipped into the water, my body rippling with appreciation and ease, I was filled with gratitude. All the kinks of the ride, the stress of the month leading up to it, all the fatigue dissolved away. I swam a portion of the Ironman course -- a double line of buoys, with a cable running along the bottom to allow swimmers to sight a straight line--and came out of the water a changed woman. Rain fell as the sun set, a band played in the park across the lake, a group of teens flirted on the dock, and two young boys splashed in the children's swim area, ignoring the pleas of their mother to call it quits for the night. I am in Lake Placid, and I believe I am the luckiest person on this planet.

I slept until I woke up, a near-forgotten luxury, and spent the morning catching up on a few things, thrilled to be quiet and still and alone. When I ventured out in search of a new race belt at the bike shop, I ran into a guy taking photos of the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, where they're setting up Ironman ground zero. 

"Isn't it cool?!" We both exclaimed. 

"Are you racing?" I asked him. He was not, and my grin nearly broke my face when I told him I was. I gushed about the whole thing for probably way too long, but he was into the story, and his excitement on my behalf is one of the things that will sustain me in the darkest moments of Sunday's interminable marathon. He wanted to know if he could follow my progress during the race. Humbled and embarrassed and completely delighted, I told him, yes, yes, please! I can actually feel the support when I'm out there. It makes a physical, not just a mental, difference. 

I spent a few more hours goofing off, including grabbing a most precious afternoon lie-down in the sun by the lake, and then got on my bike. My legs were tired, but the scenery was breathtaking, and it was all I could do not to stop every couple of miles for photos of the mountains, the trout streams, the glacial ponds, the wildflowers, the the the the.

While was pulled over in the golf club parking lot trying to get the sun to come back out for this shot, two friendly local guys pulled up on their mountain bikes. Splattered in mud, gregarious and charming, they offered advice about the race and suggestions for fun in the area. John said he was riding back home, so we said goodbye to Randy and headed up the hill. John then treated me to a backstreet tour of this sweet little town, showing me where to launch a kayak on Lake Placid, the place where they cliff jump, the old foundation of the Episcopal church, now a beautiful garden. 

He told me about his neighbor, Pownie, who is 90 but you'd never know it. She happened to come out as we rode by her house, and he was right--I would put her at maybe 75. Her friend Bobbie showed up, and I was treated to fifteen minutes of total inspiration and hilarity. They are all there, I realized. More than most people far younger. It's all about being present. Yes, they're healthy, and their intellect is sharp, but there's something more than that. These women are totally in their bodies, totally in this moment, totally engaged. I want that when I'm ninety. I want that now

It's a big part of why I do this race--the training sharpens my mind and puts me in my body and keeps me present like no other practice. When I asked these amazing women if I could take their photo, I snapped one, and then Pownie declared, "I'm getting rid of this old cane!" and threw it off to the side.

They headed off to a concert at church, and John and I took off for two more stops on the tour -- including the views from the Crowne Plaza resort, built on the highest hilltop overlooking the town. We stopped to admire this scene, and (real estate broker that I am), my first thought was wow, what a tragedy they put this hideous white building right here--it totally ruins the view. 

They really should have protected it--you'd think the resort would have done something! Or the zoning! This is a travesty. "What is that AWFUL building?" I ask. 

"Uh....that's the Olympic Center." John politely replied.

The Olympic Center. The one built in 1932. The, um, whole reason that all of this is possible, really. 

No wonder people hate real estate brokers. We both had a huge laugh at my expense, and it was a perfect end to a most magical tour.

I got off the bike and have the fastest run I've had since spring 2014. 

Oh, Lake Placid. I love you.

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