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Ironman Task Force evaluates 2022 race

More than 2,100 Ironman Lake Placid triathletes began their 2.4-mile swim at Mirror Lake Sunday morning around 6:30 a.m., starting with the professional men and women. Then they biked 112 miles and ran 26.2 miles before finishing at the Olympic Speedskating Oval. In addition to the athletes, there were many people at the start, including many volunteers, spectators, media and Ironman staffers. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The Ironman Task Force met on Friday, July 29 to discuss their opinions of how the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon went this year, share ideas for how the race could be improved in future years and talk about how they believe their recommendations were — or weren’t — successfully implemented in this year’s race.

The Ironman Task Force identified five main changes this past January that they wanted to see for this year’s race. The task force — which saw these recommendations as “deal breakers” if they weren’t implemented — asked that Ironman establish a point of contact for race day, create a dedicated campaign to address road safety in the months leading up to the race and a campaign to highlight race communities and local businesses, release a list of race day congestion areas and escort services, and put together a communication plan to help highlight Ironman’s giveback to the community.

The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees unanimously voted to support a three-year contract extension for the Ironman triathlon through 2024 last month. The North Elba Town Council voted to support the three-year contract in March. A contract extension was ultimately signed by the Ironman Group, Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin, North Elba town Supervisor Derek Doty and the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism last month.

The task force — which includes local officials, community members and business owners — was created in the summer of 2021 to evaluate the economic and community impacts of the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon. The task force helped compile a community survey — sent out by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism this past fall — that found the community to be nearly evenly split on whether or not the triathlon should continue to be hosted here.

Contact person

A hotline was established this year for locals who needed information about the Ironman triathlon or who needed escort services to leave or enter their driveways on race day. Members of the task force on July 29 said that the contact person, who was an Ironman employee, responded to calls quickly and returned calls within a few hours if they didn’t know the answer to a question.

ROOST Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence noted that the contact person wasn’t local to the area and she said the person wasn’t as familiar with Lake Placid as she hoped they’d be. She thought the contact person should arrive in Lake Placid a couple of weeks ahead of the race, rather than during race week, “to get the lay of the land.”

Committee members supported the idea of having local contacts in each of the race course towns that the contact person could reach out to for information to answer residents’ questions.

Task force member Bryan Magnus wanted to see a list of the questions the contact person received to better understand the topics on community members’ minds during the race. Lawrence said she’d also look into whether or not anyone used the escort services this year.

Magnus noted that road closures were accounted for on Google Maps, though committee member David Lally said that he thinks there was some lack of communication about road closures from New York State Police.

Road safety, community highlights

A map of the triathlon course, which had a “code of conduct” for athletes on the back, was distributed ahead of the race. Ironman also put together a few videos highlighting the Lake Placid community and the other towns on the race course.

Magnus commended Ironman for putting the map together quickly, saying he especially liked the recommendations for alternative bike rides that weren’t on the triathlon course. Michelle Preston, a committee member and the operations manager at the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau, said she planned to keep the extra maps around the bureau to hand out to tourists throughout the season.

Lawrence thought a list of public bathrooms should be included on the map next year.

In addition to the map, ROOST circulated a flier this year addressing road safety for both cyclists and motorists. Lawrence asked task force members how they thought athlete training ahead of the race went this year, given the additional steps taken to address athletes’ code of conduct.

A few committee members noted that they hadn’t seen cyclists riding two and three abreast this year like they had in years past.

“It was much more ‘Placid,’ shall we say,” committee member Sue Young said.

Some locals, particularly those who regularly drive along state Route 86 in the Wilmington Notch area, reported seeing some athletes ride two or three abreast while training ahead of the triathlon.

Committee member Julie DuPont-Woody, who’s competed in the triathlon in the past, said she gave some talks to training camps about the code of conduct and respecting local communities ahead of the race. She said athletes were receptive. Magnus thought the task force should recommend that talks like those be given to all Ironman Lake Placid training camps in the future.

Other recommendations

Lawrence highlighted a few other task force recommendations that she feels were fulfilled this year. The 2022-24 contract now requires that Ironman be responsible for compensating New York State Police for their services on race day, and Lawrence said Ironman Regional Race Director Dave Christen spoke with Keene and Wilmington’s emergency services to request that an invoice for compensation be sent to Ironman.

The new contract also requires that all signing parties mutually agree on the number of athletes that can register for the next year’s race within seven days of the prior year’s race; the task force recommended that there be a cap of 3,000 registrants each year.

While local athletes weren’t highlighted with special bibs this year — another recommendation from the task force — Lawrence said that’d be something to work on for next year.

New ideas

Task force members came up with several new ideas for recommendations based on their experiences during this year’s race.

Young, who owns Young’s Studio and Gallery in Jay, floated the idea of including some designated areas on the course map where spectators could park and watch athletes. She said she caught someone parking in her business’s parking lot to watch the race. She said certain areas, like the Village Green in Jay, could be earmarked as good places to watch the race.

Lawrence said she heard some feedback that “a lot more garbage cans” were needed around the swim start and running portion of the course. Young suggested having large dumpsters set up where trash cans could be emptied out periodically throughout race day. Members of the task force from Keene, Jay and Lake Placid noted that it looked like the race “never happened” by the evening of race day or the next morning because clean-up crews had successfully canvassed those areas.

The task force also discussed how local businesses could better communicate the occurrence of Ironman to tourists visiting the area during race week who might not know it’s happening. Committee member Trish Friedlander also suggested putting a limit on how early training camps could set up their tents along Mirror Lake. She saw tents going up as early as the Monday before the race, and she said it was disruptive to the local atmosphere.

Lawrence said she thought the town and village needed more traffic assistance on the Friday before the race. She said there was a noon meeting at the Ironman village at the North Elba Horse Show Grounds that day, and traffic was backed up down Sentinel Road after it ended. She said Friday is also a “heavy bike day.” She thought the task force should recommend that Ironman hire someone to patrol the bike loop to make sure people are abiding by the code of conduct and rules of the road.

Committee members said they’d heard that an Ironman cyclist was hit by a car that Friday. New York State Police on Monday, July 25 said they responded to a report of a cycling-related collision on state Route 86, near the High Falls Gorge in Wilmington, on July 23. Police said a cyclist, who was registered as an Ironman competitor in this year’s race, was hit by a passing motorist while she was riding her bike. She was transported by the Wilmington Ambulance Service to Adirondack Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries. Police said the motorist didn’t stop after hitting the cyclist, and the motorist was never located.

Personal experiences

Some committee members shared anecdotes about their experiences during this year’s race. Lally said he volunteered during the race and felt that the competitors he encountered all loved Ironman and the Lake Placid area.

Preston, who manned a tent in the Ironman village, said she didn’t see “one negative person” come through her tent.

“I just can’t say enough about how gracious and polite every single person was that came through,” she said.

Magnus said this was his first year being in the Lake Placid area for the event outside of competing in the triathlon. He said he had positive interactions with athletes as he cheered them on from the sidelines.