Ironman Lake Placid, Lake Placid, ny
The entire event of a 2.4 mile swim in Mirror Lake, 112 mile bike through the scenic Adirondack region and finally the 26.2 mile run through the village of Lake Placid is of two loops each making it a very spectator friendly event.
The main transition area, complete with the finish line, bike transition, medical tent and changing tents all sit on the infield of the skating oval where Eric Heiden won his 5 gold speed skating gold medals.
Ironman begins with two full loops of Mirror Lake. Up until last year the swim was a “mass” start swimming counter-clockwise exiting the water at the dock, running across the sandy beach back into the water. Last year (2013) WTC introduced a self-seated, staggered start which brought a lot of skepticism. Actually the swim turned out to be much smoother. Although, the faster swimmers eventually would catch, on their second lap, the slower swimmers on their first lap - this was only for the last 900 meters or so of the swim. There is something very unique to the swim in Mirror Lake – the cable that runs the entire length on both sides of the swim. It lies about 5-6 under the water and is very visible. It’s a great tool to help you swim straight.
As you exit the swim, you snake your way from Mirror Lake onto Parkside drive, then make a right hand turn onto Mirror Lake Drive. You will then cross over Main Street and enter the skating oval to the transition area.
The volunteers will point you in the direction of the racks of transition bags. They are color coded and numbered for easy identification. Into the changing tent - here again the volunteers will assist you and even throw your personal items back in to the transition bag for you. As you exit the rear of the changing tent, you’ll hear your number being called out. Volunteers will have your bike waiting for you. How’s that for valet service?
On to the bike – you will exit the backside of the transition area which is next to Lake Placid High School. You will meander your way through the village getting on to route 73 which takes you out of town. The first 1.5 miles is flat taking you past the airport, the horse grounds and the famous ski jumps. As you pass the ski jumps, shift into an easy gear allowing you to spin. For the next 8+ miles you will be climbing and descending, but overall, it’s uphill. Take your time. By the time you get to the top you still have at least 100 miles to ride. Next you will begin a descent which takes you past Cascade Lakes allowing you to reach speeds of 30+ mph. These roads are not the best. Be very cautious! After this descent you will be in the village of Keene. Here you will make a left hand turn onto 9N. This begins probably the fastest and flattest part of the 56 mile loop. Great scenery, but very windy. You will pass through Upper Jay, Jay and head towards Ausable Forks. Up until a few years ago, once you reached Jay, you’d make a left hand turn onto Rt 86. Now you pass that left hand turn, head out to Ausable Forks to a turn around. Beware this is a gradual downhill that you don’t realize until you turn around and come back. On the return from Ausable Forks you will reach the right hand turn onto Rt 86 and head to Wilmington. Once on Rt 86 it’s 4-5 miles of 2 climbs and 1 descent. Again, take your time on these climbs. Once in Wilmington, you will have a quick out and back of a mile or so on Hazelton Road. Next, the fun begins – by the time you exit Hazelton Road and get back onto Rt 86, you have roughly 14 miles to go. You will pass the entrance of White Face Mountain early on, ride along the Ausable River as you head back towards the village of Lake Placid. The entire road has been repaved. Makes for a comfortable ride – sort of? Get ready to climb, descend, climb, descend about 5x over. In fact the climbs have been named – Little Cherry, Big Cherry, Momma Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear. Again, take your time and be patient. As you approach Lake Placid you will begin to hear all kinds of cheering. As you approach the top of Papa Bear, it’s as if you are riding the Tour de France as the spectators are lined the road, 4-5 deep. Just as you think your climbing is done, you turn right taking you passed Northwood Private School where you will be climbing again bringing you to the left hand turn onto Mirror Lake Drive. Once on Mirror Lake Drive you can once again open up the speed. Be cautious! By the second loop of the bike Mirror Lake Drive is divided into two lanes – one for bike and one for runners. The feed zone for the bike used to be on the left hand side. In 2013, they moved the bike feed zone to Parkside Drive just below the USPS office and the legendary “hot corner”. Once you pass the “hot corner” you will pass between Lake Placid HS and the Olympic Training Center. Next you will pass behind the Lake Placid High school – on to lap two. All morning prior to the start of the race you will hear the legendary voice of Mike Reilly. He will tell you time and time again to not take the first lap of the bike too hard. Once you begin the second lap, you’ll know if you took it too hard. It’ll hurt – BAD!
Now you have completed the second loop of the bike – 112 miles. You pass again through the “hot corner” and swing around the back side of Lake Placid High School. Now you make a hard left, up the macadam ramp back to the transition area. Volunteer will assist you in taking your bike and direct you toward the racks of transition bags. Same as the swim to bike transition, but now you’ll grab your bike to run bag.
This time you’ll exit the front side of the changing tent onto Main Street. Get ready, you’re a celebrity. The hooting and hollering is incredible.
Your first ½ mile of the marathon is downhill. Next is a short climb then fairly flat for the next 1-1/2 miles. Take your time. Get acclimated to running. Going out too fast can be very detrimental as the 26 miles unfold. As you approach the ski jumps you’ll have a downhill that takes you across a bridge over the Ausable River to a left hand turn on to River Road. This is an out-n-back closed loop run. If you like rolling hills, this part of the course is for you. You reached the turn around and head back toward the ski jumps – what a sight – awesome! Don’t get too excited. Remember the downhill just before River Road? Yes, you guessed it. This is a tough climb. Dig deep. You can do it. The one nice thing about Ironman is the fact that on the run there is an aid/feed station every mile. Something to keep your mind occupied out there on the run. Back to about a mile of flat running. Next is a long climb from Rt 73 to a left hand turn onto Main Street then a right hand turn onto Mirror Lake Drive. This is you second and hardest climb of the run. I have always found the pain to decrease because the crowds are so loud, your adrenaline increases 10-fold. Be cautious. Keep a steady pace. You still have 14 or so miles to go. Once on Mirror Lake Drive it’s a flat run. You’ll come to the run/feed station where they’ll call your number in advance and direct you to the volunteer with your bag just as they did on the bike. Remember, I mentioned the two-way traffic on Mirror Lake Drive? This will be in effect until the bike course closes at 5:30 or so. Be careful because not only is there two-way bike/running traffic, there is two-way runner/runner traffic too. You reached the run turn-around and head back toward Main Street. Here you will see volunteer directing runner traffic. If you just finished your first loop, you’ll make a left hand turn and head back out for another 13 miles. If this is your second loop, you’ll cross over Main Street and enter the skating oval.
The FINISH! You have are running down the final ¾ mile of Mirror Lake Drive. Pain? What Pain? The crowds are roaring. You are pumped! You hear in the foreground those triathletes who are ahead of you and the voice of Mike Reilly over the PA system. You leave Mirror Lake Drive, run about 20 yards onto Main Street and enter the skating oval. You see the Olympic Training Center and the flags from all countries are flags waving. The crowds that were 4-5 deep on that climb atop of Papa Bear are now in the thousands lining the outside of the grassy hill of Lake Placid High School. The finish line is lined, both sides, with crowds on the bleachers. You are rounding the oval seeing the huge TV screen of those triathletes finishing ahead of you. You see the finish line. To the right of the finish line is a structure – atop of that is Mike Reilly ring out those legendary words you worked all year for –
YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!