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How to Nail Ironman Lake Placid

BY Mike Ricci

Lake Placid presents its own set of challenges with a relatively crowded swim, a long run to T1, a very challenging bike course, and a run that would be a tough marathon even if you were fresh, never mind after 180km of cycling.

Lake Placid presents its own set of challenges with a relatively crowded swim, a long run to T1, a very challenging bike course, and a run that would be a tough marathon even if you were fresh, never mind after 180km of cycling. For those planning to race IMLP in 2013, there are about 8 weeks to go. At this point, you should have a good understanding of the unique demands of the race so that you can train specifically as well as develop a race day strategy to nail this popular Ironman.

From my own experience racing IMLP, that of my athletes and some past age grouper files, here’s what you’ll need in your arsenal on July 28.


The swim will be clockwise this year and there could be some sighting interference from the sun on the back half of the swim. This year the swim changes to a time trial vs. a mass start, and this will make the race interesting. If the majority of the swimmers seed themselves accordingly this could be a fast swim. Smaller groups of equal ability swimmers should allow them to move through the course quicker than normal. The underwater rowing cable is easy to follow and if you can keep your eye on it while swimming you’ll never have to lift your head. Big time bonus! Seed yourself accordingly and you’ll end up in a group of swimmers about your ability – meaning you should be able get a free ride in the draft for this two-lap course. Check out age grouper Cesare Trabattoni’s swim file on TrainingPeaks for the swim profile (2 laps):

In order to improve your swim time, focus on longer sets at a steady pace in your training. If open water swims are not possible where you live, then swimming 5-7×600 repeats at a consistent pace would help. Remember, you don’t have to start out super fast since you won’t have to deal with the mass start. This should help you save some heart beats for the bike and run.


The run to T1 is about 800m, barefoot, on the sidewalk, so be prepared for that. How? Practice running barefoot a bit just to get your feet familiar with the pounding your soles will take.


This two-lap course is very scenic, but you’re not here to smell the roses; you want to get from the town of Lake Placid and back as fast as you can, and do it as efficiently the second time as you did the first. Expect wind on the second lap and for the long, 11-mile climb back to be a bit tougher the second time around. For your Training Stress Score® (TSS®) points, the magic number to aim for is typically 300 when you ride around 5:15-6:00 hours. Once you are above that, you are looking at a 15-25% increase in TSS points. The closer you ride to 300, the better your run will be. From looking at the files shared with us from age groupers who have done IMLPs past, we see some serious TSS points and the run times reflect the length and stress of the TSS. A 7:22 ride (450 TSS points) by Alexandre Desemery last year netted a 5:11 run; and a 6:12 ride by Trabbatoni (496 TSS points) netted a 4:38 run. That’s a lot of energy to give up to the course prior to running the marathon. Whereas, I’ve seen rides close to 6 hours, with low TSS of 250s and a 3:50-ish run.

The other consideration is that the harder you ride, the more energy (kilojoules) you’ll be burning up per hour. The riders who are close to 5.5 to 6 hours are burning around 650-700 KJs an hour, whereas the riders who are closer to 7 hours are typically burning up 500 KJs an hour. Keeping your Intensity Factor® (IF®) closer to .70 will benefit most age groupers. The rider who rode 7:22 was close to .80 IF, which is probably harder than he should have ridden.

It sounds like the age groupers who submitted their files agreed with that conclusion in retrospect. Desemery and Trabbatoni advised other age group athletes to ride conservatively. Trabbatoni says, “The second loop is really tough, particularly because the major hills are at the end. Also, I did not expect the run course to be so hilly, you need your strength for that course.” See their power data:

Alexandre Desemery who rode 7:22 at IMLP 2012:

Cesare Trabbatoni who rode 6:12 at IMLP 2012:

In order to have a successful race at Lake Placid, learning how to ride the correct wattage / HR and RPE is critical. You have plenty of time to implement steady rides of .68-.72 IF, and if you can, start out easier and ride the second half stronger than you did the first half. At IMLP you can expect a 10-20 minute increase on the second lap due to the wind and fatigue. If you can ride an even or negative split, even better. I would recommend a few long rides, 150-180k, like this before race day. Another quality workout you’ll want to execute each week, is doing 3-5×10 minutes in the big ring, to build up strength for the hills of Placid.


This is a very challenging run due to the downhill start and the long climb back to town. Like the bike, this is two loops. I recommend you start out slowly and build the effort on race day. Once you hit the lower and rolling parts of the back end of the course, you’ll lose that downhill advantage and if you took the start too hard, you’ll pay for it. The climb back to town can be a slugfest, but if you can hold back in the early miles, you’ll have plenty of energy left. The crowds can be a huge advantage, but don’t let them psyche you up too much – you’ll want to save the adrenaline for the second lap.

With 8 weeks to go, you have time for a few more long runs and if you can find some long downhills and uphills in your area, that’s going to benefit you on race day even more. You don’t have to run the hills hard, but it will help you get familiar to the long downhills and uphills. Another great workout to try is short hill repeats of 2 minutes (build up to 9-10). This will help your run form, and your strength overall for the last miles of the Placid run course. I would keep the long run to around 2:45, as there isn’t much physiological benefit for running longer.

Lake Placid is a tough race, and you have to be mentally prepared for the wind on the second half of the bike, along with the hills. On the run, you have to be strong on the second half of the run in order to finish strong. Having a nutrition and pacing plan in place prior to this race is going to help you reach the realistic goals that you’ve set. Good luck.

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About Mike Ricci

Mike Ricci, USAT Coach of the Year, USAT Level 3 Elite Coach and a Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach.  He is the owner and founder of the D3 Multisport coaching group, through which he coaches all levels of athletes from beginner to elite. One of their key coaching philosophies is no junk miles.  They help athletes utilize their time effectively as they pursue their goals.  Mike’s credentials include the University of Colorado Triathlon Team and guiding them as the Head Coach to four consecutive collegiate National Championship titles from 2010-2013. Mike has written training plans for Team USA several times, was the USAT World Team Coach in 2017, and has helped many athletes to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. You + D3 = Success (Learn More!).

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