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Athletes warm up to Lake Placid 70.3

Triathletes enter Mirror Lake at the start of last year’s Ironman 70.3 triathlon in Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — Chilly temperatures were part of the scenario the past two years for the Ironman Lake Placid 70.3 race, and that could be the case again Sunday, but organizers are doing everything they can to help provide competitors with an enjoyable day for the triathlon.

The event features half of traditional full-Ironman distance race held in the Olympic Region each July. The 1.2-mile swim in Mirror Lake begins at 7 a.m, with the race moving into a single-loop, 56-mile bike ride and culminating in a 13.1-mile run through the village of Lake Placid.

Sunday marks the third time Lake Placid hosts the race on the second Sunday of September, and race organizer Greg Borzilleri said about 2,500 triathletes have pre-registered for the event and about 2,000 are expected to compete. He said registration was down about 500 from a year ago, and attributed that to both the weather as well as some new 70.3 triathlons that have sprung up, including ones in Connecticut and Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

“It was cold two years in a row, and that’s part of the reason we may not have as many entries,” Borzilleri said. “Looking at the weather, it seems like it will be chilly again, but we’re going to provide as many warming opportunities as we can for everybody. The cold the night before looks like it will be around 45, the high on race day, around 58.”

To accommodate triathletes, two big warming tents being set up are at the beach on Mirror Lake for swimmers before they enter the water, and one on the bike course at the bottom of the Cascade Pass. Although half-Ironman races don’t normally include a changing tent in the transition area, one will be set up at the Olympic Speedskating Oval, which is also the site of the race’s finish line.

Competitors congregate in the warming tent on the beach at Mirror Lake prior to last year’s Ironman 70.3 triathlon in Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

For the third year in a row, Lake Placid’s race coincides with the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. In 2017, that race took place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with South Africa hosting the championships last September. This time around, Nice, France will be the site of the 70.3 worlds on Sunday.

Lake Placid’s 70.3 event will offer 40 qualifying spots to the 2020 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Taupo, New Zealand. There will be another 25 spots dedicated to the Women for Tri initiative, applied across all female age group categories.

Even though it may be a bit chilly, and although other races may pull competitors away from Lake Placid on Sunday, the iconic Ironman course here has always been a big draw ever since the inaugural 140.6-mile race took place in the Adirondacks 21 years ago.

“People tend to want to try out new courses, and that newness may be wearing off a bit here, but our athletes’ poll rates Lake Placid as one of the best courses in the world,” Borzilleri said. “Really, it’s the granddaddy of the triathlon world outside of Kona. For me, it’s really an honor to shepherd this race.”

When it comes to impacting the area in terms of road closures and other inconveniences, Sunday’s race is decidedly easier to deal with than July’s full Ironman, which stretches until midnight each year. In the 70.3, all cyclists must complete their ride by 1:30 p.m., with the run course closing at 4:30 p.m.

Borzilleri said it takes about 1,500 volunteers to run Sunday’s race, which is half of number needed for the full Ironman. As of Tuesday, he said they are looking about 200 to 300 more volunteers to fill out the group. Among the locals volunteering Sunday are the Lake Placid High School Varsity Club, members of the Saranac Lake boys soccer team and possibly students from Paul Smith’s College.

Borzilleri, a year-round resident of Lake Placid, said he appreciates the local backing for the race.

“I just want to say a thank you to the community and everybody who comes out and supports this,” he said. “I know it’s going to be beautiful, the leaves are changing, and let’s pray for sunny weather.”