Local athlete takes on Ironman Lake Placid

An Invermere woman headed to New York state last months to compete in a big triathlon challenge

Ironman Triathlons require participants to swim 3.86 kilometres, bicycle 180.25 kilometres, and run 42.2 kilometres, and Michelle Taylor from Invermere went to Lake Placid, New York last month to compete in the trio of challenges.

Ironman Lake Placid takes competitors through the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Lake Placid can be travelled to by car from southern Ontario, where Michelle’s relatives lives, including her sister-in-law who also competed in the triathlon.

Michelle completed the event in 14 hours, 24 minutes and 47 seconds and said she did well considering the level of pain she endured on the bike, as her ribs were sore and her back was spasming.

“I had a few dark moments there, but I really found a lot of inner strength,” she told The Echo. “I kept saying at points that it’s just pain, it’s just pain.”

But never did she think about quitting, she said.

“I’d have to be put in an ambulance and carted away – that’s the only was I was going to quit.”

The community spirit in Lake Placid made it easy for Michelle to push through.

“The atmosphere is unbelievable — thousands and thousands of people cheering you on,” she said. “They just feed you energy all day, and it really helps to keep you going.”

The event was well-organized, Michelle said. Athletes staged themselves accordingly, based on their expected finishing time, and the large crowd began the race  in phases rather than all at once.

“The timing mats are right where you enter the water, so until you go past that with your timing chip, your official time doesn’t begin,” she said.

The seeded start prevented swimmers from “clobbering” one another, Michelle said.

“It can get scary when you’re in the water and there are big guys swimming over you.”

She completed the swim in one hour and twenty three minutes, and ranked 40th out of the 76 finishers in her division — females aged 45 to 49.

Although health issues prevented her from optimal performance, Michelle was able to complete the bike segment in 7 hours and 41 minutes.

“Lake Placid has absolutely gorgeous bike courses,” she said. “It’s always changing; you’re always turning a corner, going up or down a hill.”

And she said that when you live in the mountains, those hills are easy to handle.

Her practice rides in the Columbia Valley led her to the Castlerock access road, and she would pedal to Panorama and back several times consecutively.

She also practiced accumulating speed without braking on the descents.

“There was one steep descent down to a small town that I was freaked out about (as) people were talking about braking and how steep it was,” Michelle said about one section of the Lake Placid bike course. “It was funny because the hill I was anxious about was not a big deal and I was so freaked out about it.”

More than nine hours had passed after the swimming and cycling legs of the race when it was time for Michelle to run the 42.2-kilometre stretch.

Although she’s been running for 12 years, she said she was surprised the first time she ran after biking 40 kilometres.

“I didn’t think I’d last ten steps. You start with a sprint and you kind of get hooked on it. Then you work your way up.”

While it requires a tremendous amount of dedication, Michelle said anybody who commits is capable of completing an Ironman Triathlon.