LAKE PLACID - From sunrise to midnight on Sunday, an electric mood will radiate from athletes, volunteers and spectators as the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon returns for its 16th running.
In 1978, U.S. Naval Commander John Collins conjured a mix of swimming, running and biking that covered more than 140 miles in Hawaii - a race that would become known around the world as the first Ironman triathlon. Since then, the World Triathlon Corporation has sponsored more than two dozen Ironman triathlons in Australia, Europe, South America and North America.
The Olympic Village had its inaugural race in 1999 and has since seen a steady rise in global and regional attention as the oldest Ironman on the continent.
About 30 Speedo Run participants pose for a group photo Friday at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, their start and finish point.
(Enterprise photo — Matthew Turner)
The scenic course consists of a 2.4-mile swim on Mirror Lake, followed by a 112-mile bike and finished with a marathon run of 26.2 miles. A prize of $25,000 is awarded to the top professional competitor, and 50 age group qualifying slots for the Ironman world championship in Hawaii are given to competitors finishing at the top of their groups.
More than 2,500 competitors come from 25 countries and 42 states this year, along with thousands of volunteers and spectators.
James McKenna, chief executive officer at the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in Lake Placid, said the starting point and finish line are must-sees for first-time spectators.
"The most impressive thing is the early evening into nighttime at the finish line, where crowds are big and there's a lot of enthusiasm in the air," McKenna said. "It's really exciting."
A wave of athletes start the swim in Mirror Lake at 6:20 a.m. Ideal spectating locations for the swim are by the Lake Placid Club Resort entrance on Lake Placid Club Drive, the beach house on Parkside Drive and the section of Lake Placid Club Drive by the North Elba Town Hall.
Good vantage points for watching the bike race include the Main Street side of Colden Avenue, near the post office on Main Street and near state Route 73 on River Road.
Runners can be seen from anywhere on Main Street, Lake Placid Club Drive, Cascade Road and at the Olympic Oval, which will serve as the transition point and finish line.
McKenna said the front of the Olympic Center is a "hot corner" for spectators.
To prevent interference with competitors, non-athletes aren't allowed in the finish area or the medical tents. Information updates concerning athletes that enter the tents will be posted outside of them.
McKenna advises people traveling in Lake Placid to keep their cars away from the competition for safety purposes.
The progress of specific athletes can be tracked online the day of the race by using the race coverage box at www.ironman.com.
Athletes will be labeled DNF (did not finish) if they fail to complete the swim in two hours and 20 minutes, the bike before 5:30 p.m. or the run before midnight.
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall advises spectators to show up early as parking is scarce and the sidewalks fill quickly. He also said to prepare for a lot of walking, as many streets have limited access.
Law enforcement and emergency responders from Lake Placid and surrounding communities will be positioned at several posts along the course to ensure the safety of everyone attending.
Before and after
The Ironkids Fun Run for kids ages 3 to 15 will be at 2 p.m. on Friday, July 25 at Mirror Lake Drive. Kids choose how much they want to run and can be registered for $15 at the conference center until Thursday and at Fun Run on Friday.
For the first time, the welcoming ceremony will be held in Mid's Park on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. The mayor said the proximity to downtown business was an ideal location for the Lake Placid Business Association.
Several events are scheduled at the conference center on the day after the race. The Ironman athlete celebration from 8 a.m. to noon will have food, entertainment and merchandise for sale. Admission is $25 for ages 12 and up, $15 for ages 6 to 11 and free for anyone 5 and under. The award ceremony will take place at the celebration at 9:30 a.m., and slot allocation for the world championship will be at 11 a.m.
Parking, alternate routes
Parking will be available with free shuttle services at the following locations: John Brown Farm State Historic Site on John Brown Road, Wesvalley Road, and Lake Placid Elementary School on Old Military Road.
Shuttles run from 4 a.m. Sunday until 1 a.m. Monday and drop riders off between the Olympic Center and Olympic Speedskating Oval a quarter-mile from Main Street.
Road closures are planned for various times on Route 73, Route 9N, Route 86, Haselton Road, River Road, Northwood Road, Cobble Hill Road, Main Street, Lake Placid Club Drive, Sentinel Road, Cascade Road and Parkside Drive.
Alternate route directions for people traveling in Lake Placid, AuSable Forks, Jay, Wilmington, Keene, Saranac Lake and the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87) can be found on the Ironman website in the 2014 Lake Placid Ironman spectator guide.
Additional information on parking, shuttles and scheduled events can be found at the information booth at the conference center.
Benefitting the community
McKenna said the "premier Ironman event in North America" in Lake Placid has several positive impacts on the community.
First there's the economic impact. Many of the 3,000-plus athletes come to train months ahead of time, using hotels, gas stations and restaurants. Local business receives a spike as the race nears and 20,000 visitors pour about $10 million into the local economy.
Mayor Randall said the Ironman is "viewed as one of the high points of the summer season in the area in terms of economic impact."
The Ironman Foundation will donate $60,000 this year to first-responder groups and several other local nonprofits, adding to the $1,311,033 total it has donated since 2003.
McKenna said the event also encourages a lifestyle of wellness with its inspirational athletic nature, adding a fitting Olympic spirit to the village.
McKenna also said the race has a global marketing aspect, grabbing the attention of competitors and fans worldwide.
Lake Placid signed a five-year contract with Ironman in 2012. Race Director Greg Borzilleri said Ironman is looking for a lifelong commitment with the village and can't imagine the event relocating any time soon.
For more information about Ironman Lake Placid, visit www.ironman.com.
Adam St. Pierre, of Tupper Lake, is a summer intern at the Enterprise and a journalism student at SUNY Plattsburgh.