April 15, 2024
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
April 15, 2024
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ironman Lake Placid 2017: The Race Day Experience


The bike ride was fraught with problems…

At mile 10, there is a steep descent into Keene, I shifted my gears to get the maximum power from my pedaling.

I was hoping to surpass last year’s 47 mph descent.


Suddenly, all resistance was gone.

My first thought was, “Oh shoot, my chain broke.”

Thankfully, it had only popped off. I can fit a chain back onto a bike cassette. I can’t fix a broken chain.

I stopped the bike, slide the chain back on, wiped the grease on my shorts & continue pedaling.


It happened again.

That is when I shifted in my “Apollo 13” headspace.

At a critical moment in the book, “Failure Is Not an Option,” Gene Kranz, the man in charge, issued a directive,

“Let’s work the problem people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”

Something was wrong with my bike. There were mechanics on the course, but I chose not to ask for help. I worried that they might make things worse.

Half way through the first loop of rolling hills, I was climbing, so I shift to a smaller ring for ease.

Nothing happened. My derailleur/gear shifter was stuck.

Now I was climbing Hills in the wrong gears and I was expending energy that I couldn’t afford.

Post race diagnostics would show that the derailleur had too much range because it was missing a lateral plate & a wavy washer.

Apollo 13 mindset: “Work the problem.” So when I could, I would pedal backwards a little to knock the gearing into the smaller ring. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

As the miles ticked away, I kept waiting for those terrible hills from last year, but they never came.

With the first loop done, I was feeling optimistic. All the early morning hours on the bike trainer were paying off.

On the second loop I kept the chain on during the 1.5 mile descent into Keene, but the gearing stuck again when I tried to shift between the big and small rings.

With an overcast sky it wasn’t that hot out, so I drank more water, less electrolytes. For a change, I found myself hungry. Thankfully the volunteers standing at the side of the road were handing out bananas.

Sip water. Sip Gatorade. Eat a banana from mile 56 through mile 112.

As I rolled back into town, I slipped feet out of shoes like practiced. This has become part of the bike hand off ritual for me.

Ed was there to document the moment. Note the black utility bottle (with spare bike tires) on the back of my bike.

As someone who always worried that he was too slow a cyclist to become an Ironman, handing my bike off to the volunteer is an emotional moment for me. It means that I have made the 5:30 pm time cut off that disqualifies slower riders. It was time to get dressed to run a marathon.

To be continued next week….

By David Roher


Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles