Fireman Ironman Training Camp: “I am so lucky to be able to do this”

“Whenever I get scared or feel anxiety, I just remind myself that I am so lucky to be able to do this.” And with that statement, Charlotte became a source of incredible knowledge and motivation as I worked my way through a challenging, exhilarating and ultimately rewarding training weekend in Lake Placid, NY.

I met Charlotte on the banks of Mirror Lake, just as we were getting ready to do one loop of the swim course last Friday evening (June 18th) to kick off the 10th Annual Fireman Ironman Training Camp, which is organized by New York City Fire Fighter Larry Parker and his excellent staff,, volunteers and panel of experts. This camp is a grassroots, low-key training weekend that asks you to “leave your egos home.” For the cost of $149 per person, the camp offered ample aid station support for the workouts, fantastic volunteers,  an impressive and knowledgeable panel of experts, a buffet dinner on Saturday night,a fun and laid back BBQ on Sunday night, a great goodie bag, t-shirt, various giveaways from the camp’s many sponsors, and the opportunity to meet some of the finest ironman athletes. In sum, it offered serious workouts mixed with great fun.

Over the course of the weekend, we swam, biked and ran the Ironman Lake Placid course with about 150 other athletes who had signed up for the camp. This training offered an invaluable experience that will allow me to visualize the race as I work through the final weeks of training. I highly recommend experiencing the race course for your “A” priority races. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but if it is, I firmly believe the experience will prove useful on race day.

Charlotte (front, in red, white & black jersey) and I (back, in blue shirt) heading out on the 20 mile run Sunday afternoon.We were running around the Olympic Oval - how's that for inspiration?

Yet, the value of this training camp came from more than just the opportunity to train on the course. After all, John and I could have done that on our own. The true value of this camp came from the wonderful people who assembled for some ass-kicking workouts, followed by fun. For sure, the most memorable person I met was Charlotte, with whom I biked and ran on Saturday and Sunday. Charlotte possessed the physical and mental strength that I have found so inspirational in successful endurance athletes. She had done the course several times, and raced quite a few Ironman races at Lake Placid and elsewhere. She offered me various tips for racing, such as ways to section the bike course to make it manageable and to ensure that I was riding strategically for the terrain. And, her positive attitude was infectious–so much so, that I actually had FUN during the bike ride. Fun–on the bike? Yup, you read correctly. Note to IMLP participants: I will be doing a separate post on the bike course in a day or two. Please check back :).

In addition to the actual workouts, the training camp offered opportunities to socialize, share meals and listen to a series of talks from the panel of experts. Of special note in this regard is professional triathlete Karen Smyers, whose presentation was inspirational, as well as practical. Her story is riveting–a top caliber athlete who won the world championship Ironman in Kona, which was followed by a series of minor and major tragedies including severing her hamstring, being hit by an 18-wheeler, and surviving thyroid cancer. Despite those challenges, she continues to train and race. In fact, she worked out with us all weekend. And, here I am, being a big old baby about a little bike crash that left me with a few bruises and some road rash scars. Karen Smyers is positively amazing.

Karen Smyers addresses the camp

During her talk, she outlined what she called the four p’s of success: Perserverence, Positive Attitude, Perspective, and Passion. She peppered her discussion with various examples from her own racing experience, as well as that of other pros and age-group athletes. With each “p,” I learned a new way to think about this journey to complete an ironman. In particular, her discussion of the value of a positive attitude and having perspective really got “into” my head. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, I would take advantage of it.

Chris Draper, also a panelist, offered practical advice about fueling during the race. His mantra was, “Do what you did, get what you got.” In other words, what you did in training, in previous races will work the way it has worked. He advised that rather than getting obsessed with exact calorie formulas, think in terms of small (under 150 lbs), medium (150-170lbs), large (170-200lbs) and extra large. (200lbs+). In terms of calorie intake per hour, small people need 200 calories per hour (cph), medium need 300 cph, large need 400 cph, and extra large need 500 cph. He stressed that more is not better as our systems cannot process much more than this calorie intake.  When we eat too much on the bike, we pay for it during the run. Moreover, solid nutrition should be eaten and absorbed on the bike, since it will be difficult to eat solid food (or maybe even any food) during the run. Above all: practice nutrition strategy in training. Do what you did, get what you got.

John and I discussing fundraising with Moira Horan, one of the camp organizers and successful Ironman athlete (a Kona qualifier & finisher!).

It’s also worth mentioning that camp director Larry Parker is absolutely HILARIOUS. His introductions and ad-libs were so entertaining during the dinner on both Saturday and Sunday night. During the barbecue on Sunday night, he noticed that John and I had already put our “Fireman Ironman” sticker on our car. For that, we “won” a brand new transition bag, filled with goodies, such as Heed, water bottles, a polo shirt, and more. When he called us up, he said, “Blue Subaru, c’mon up here and get your award.” Very funny.

During the barbecue on Sunday night, we had the opportunity to speak with Moira Horan, who lives just an hour or so away from us in New Jersey. Moira is an accomplished and philanthropic Ironman athlete. She’s qualified and finished Kona, completed various Ironmans and other triathlons, all while raising money for various charities and organizing events. She is a great ambassador for the sport!

I had never gone to a training camp, so I didn’t know what to expect. But, I have a feeling that I got spoiled this past weekend. I strongly recommend doing this camp next year if you are planning to do Placid. And, I also recommend doing it even if you are not! It’s a wonderful weekend with fantastic people who, like me, are learning about life while pushing the limits of the body.

The camp assembles for a group photo before the run on Sunday morning


My 2010 training & racing is dedicated to raising money for college scholarships. The Iron Scholarship rewards academic endurance by helping smart students who are economically disadvantaged. For information about how you can donate, visit the information page by clicking here.


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  5. Eric Schrading

    Results look good so far!!! Nice swim time and a good bike for you and John. It’s raining here, so I hope you get some cooling showers for your run!!! Keep up the strong efforts…we’re thinking about you!!!

  6. Linda Pirolli

    Hi Maria:
    I was so impressed with your undertakings. What a great idea to help the students. I think I remember you from Brigantine, possibly St. Philip’s School.

  7. Ian

    Another fabulous post, thanks Maria. The 4 P’s are the focus of this whole journey, and although I have not gone so far as an Ironman I can see how they develop within you as an athlete, whatever sporting challenge you undertake. Keep going hard now, not too far to go and you’ll be there, ready to deliver!

  8. Lamar Sturgis

    hello miss or Mrs. Simone. I’m not sure which one to call you, really. I read your article on the rowan website and was inspired and would like to ask you some questions in hopes of receiving some motivating words. My email is…if you could respnd at your earliest convenience I would greatly appreciate it. thankyou!!!

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  10. @Moira – would love to meet up for a ride. We were checking out the routes on the Sandy Hookers website. Do you do them as a team on weekends?

    @Chris – thanks for stopping by! Will definitely check out ur blog. Thanks!

  11. It was so wonderful to meet you and John this past weekend. What a small world, huh? I’m so glad that Rob suggested you come to the camp! If you need any more information about the Janus Charity Challenge or anything else in connection with Ironman or training, please just let me know. Hopefully we can meet for a ride or something soon.

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