LAKE PLACID - There was plenty of support staff during the 15th Lake Placid Ironman triathlon on Sunday as emergency personnel from throughout the Olympic Region joined forces to make sure everyone was safe during the annual event.
These forces included our very own Lake Placid Police Department, who have been on duty each Ironman in the Olympic Village - and they pretty much have it down to a science.
Many of the athletes begin a day's training around 4 a.m. - for the Ironman event, the LPPD begin their day around the same time. Police Chief Bill Moore sat down with the News to discuss the day's operation and how the department handles such an influx of humanity.
Lake Placid Police Department Patrolmen Matthew Braunius, right, and David Corson man a post at the corner of state Routes 73 and 86 Sunday during the Ironman triathlon.
Photo/Richard Rosentreter/Lake Placid News
"Ironman is the single largest event for the police department each year, and this year it was probably the biggest I've ever seen it," Moore told the News. "Traffic-wise it rivaled the Olympics at times, the town was jam-packed."
According to Moore, Ironman Sunday begins much earlier than a typical day, but on this day the police department wasn't the only force on the streets. He told the News that when officers hit their posts, some athletes were already getting set for the long day as well.
"For me the day started 3:30 a.m. getting traffic cones out," Moore said. "Then some of the supervisors and fire department guys came in around 4:30 a.m. We had to work on the barricades and get signs up so people know where to go.
Actually there were a lot of athletes out and about at that time."
Moore said the day begins as soon as officers get on post.
"They are busy, people are dropping off their athletes, looking for parking spots, and we're trying to keep the race course clear. We needed to have a few vehicles towed. We have to make the course safe for the competitors. We start pushing traffic away from the village and what is considered the epicenter of Ironman."
Moore said that by 6 a.m., the day was well under way.
"By 6 in the morning, this town was buzzing," he said. "It was alive for a Sunday morning, the only one of the year that busy."
Changes from routine
Moore told the News that there were a few minor changes in how the police department handled the event, including a new traffic scheme and added precautions in the light of the Boston Marathon bombing.
"The village was on high alert," Moore told the News. He did not go into details, but said that there were dogs and other tactical precautions that were in place in case of a "situation." "We had a lot of resources that no one knows about to keep everyone safe."
"We did change traffic patterns on Main Street, which I think worked out better this year. It created more pedestrian traffic on Main Street, and along my travels, I saw more people on Main Street than in previous years. That created more of a carnival atmosphere, people could walk in the road."
Moore said there was nothing out of the ordinary and the majority of issues don't happen on race day, but rather on the days leading up to Ironman.
"Saturday was a busy policing day, not necessarily problems, just traffic issues," Moore said, adding something he would like to see addressed during future Ironman triathlons.
"Our problems don't come on Ironman Sunday," Moore said. "A lot of our locals complain the days leading up to the event. Mainly about those who ride two or more abreast and not single file. It's for their safety and the safety of our local people. That's the common thread. We need people who are training to ride or run single file."
Otherwise, the race went smooth," he added. "There were minor problems that we deal with every year."
Post by post,
a long shift
"Police officers are probably some the only people in town who have never seen the swim start because they are on a post" Moore explained.
He said that most of the officers have been on the same post for years.
"Tom Herzog has been at the same post at the Corner Store since Ironman's inception (in Lake Placid). He knows exactly what to do," Moore said. "Keeping people on the same post for a long time works out well."
And each post is on duty for the entire race.
On Ironman Sunday, most of the officers come in and work a 20-hour day, according to Moore, and extra staff comes in to work, even the meter guys from Main Street.
"It's an Ironman event for the officers for sure," Moore added.
He said they get lunch, relief breaks, but for the most part stand on their posts for 18 hours.
Some of the things the officers deal with are visitors asking: How do I get to the restroom? How can I get home? I need to get to Montreal or Albany. Moore said that most posts during Ironman have a handout map and the officers highlight the route to get them to where they have to go.
But they all look forward to 5:30 p.m., when the bike course is closed.
"That is big because the roads can be reopened and we can get people where they need to be," Moore said.
Day winding down
As the day turns into evening on Ironman Sunday, it doesn't ease up. Moore said that 7 to 10 p.m. becomes a busy time because a lot of athletes are finishing then, and everyone wants to get to the finish line to see their athlete get there. Then when they finish the race, everyone needs to get home.
"They want to get to their vehicle, they want to get their athlete home," Moore said. "The day doesn't really let up."
But through all that, the officers are also spectators and root for the athletes to finish the course, especially those who come through the village in the later hours.
"We like to be there at the end to see the people who are struggling to finish or running for a cause. Those are the underdogs and the guys cheer on the last competitors," Moore said. "Once the last competitor hits the village line, our guys, along with other race support personnel, follow them in."
When the race is done, the day isn't over for the LPPD. Moore said night ended around 2 a.m. for many of the department members.
"We go out and pick up the cones and take apart barricades," he said, adding that there is one rewarding aspect to working the Ironman. "We always take pride knowing we helped provide a safe atmosphere and people felt safe during the event."
"Overall the Ironman went great. I think the athletes had a fairly good day for their race and subsequently the police officers had a good day," Moore said. "I consider all my my men Ironmen. They work from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. with no complaints. If they can stay on their posts for that long, they are an Ironman, at least honorably."