How do you feel about Ironman?

Race brings mixed feelings to local business workers, owners

Jennifer Holderied is the manager and a co-owner of the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid. (News photo — Arthur Maiorella)

LAKE PLACID — The Ironman Lake Placid triathlon attracts thousands of visitors and potentially millions of dollars to the region each year. It also leads to road closures, congested streets and highways and dangerous situations with motor vehicles as athletes train for and compete in the bicycle and running portions of the race.

Weighing the pros and cons of this annual event — founded in 1999 — residents and business owners have for years been embroiled in arguments both for and against the race as heated emotions rise … sometimes with the mere mention of the name: Ironman.

On Tuesday, July 18, the Lake Placid News polled some of the workers at local businesses to gauge this year’s emotions as the community prepares to host the race on Sunday, July 23. This is obviously not a scientific survey, just a conversation with some of the locals. The Lake Placid business owners, managers and workers interviewed for this story revealed feelings of positivity for the race — for business reasons and for the sake of spectacle — but also apathy.

Jennifer Holderied is the manager and co-owner of the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort on Main Street. She said the hotel is always full during Ironman and “100%” of guests over the course of the weekend are there for the the race, some booking the four-night minimum stay a year in advance.

“(And) 70% of the hotel is repeat guests,” she said, adding that many have come back to the Golden Arrow every year for decades. “It’s like seeing old friends.”

An Ironman Lake Placid flag flies outside The Bookstore Plus on Main Street, Lake Placid. (News photo — Arthur Maiorella)

Holderied acknowledges the traffic and road closures on race day; however, she wasn’t too upset about them.

“I used to live on River Road, and if you live on River Road on race day you’re stuck at your house,” she said.

Holderied has since moved, and closures are no longer a problem Sunday morning for her, but that isn’t true for some of the Golden Arrow staff. That’s OK because she actually doesn’t need a lot of staff on race day, as the hotel is nearly deserted and Ironman guests are easy to care for.

“It’s probably one of the most boring weeks of the year in terms of being in the hotel,” she said. “We have to look for things for our staff to do.”

Holderied contrasted the well-behaved Ironman racers to the rowdy CAN/AM hockey teams.

The owner of Placid Planet Bicycles, Kenny Boettger, stands for a portrait on July 18. (News photo — Arthur Maiorella)

“(The athletes) are quiet. They don’t drink a lot. They are just very, very easy,” she said.

Another business that feels the impact of the Ironman is The Breakfast Club Etc. on Main Street, where manager Trey Griffith said that on race day — when spectators head down Main Street while racers are on away on the bike course — and the day after the race are the “two busiest days of the whole summer.”

Griffith describes a line from the host podium to the door, about 30 feet, for the entire day.

“Every seat was full, people taking stuff to go on top of sitting down and eating. It was a full day,” she said of last year’s event.

With Ironman flags waving in the breeze outside Placid Planet Bicycles on Saranac Avenue, owner Kenny Boettger looks forward to the race every year. He’s been living in the area since 1977 and in Lake Placid since 1984.

Maxwell Horowitz, an employee of Eastern Mountain Sports, stands for a picture on July 18. (News photo — Arthur Maiorella)

The race undeniably brings a lot of business into his shop — the triathlon features a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run — but Boettger also just likes having the event around.

“Ironman is awesome,” he said. “It brings in a lot of enthusiasm. It’s a very positive experience.”

Boettger recognizes that some residents don’t feel as fondly about the race as he does, but he considers the Ironman and all of Lake Placid’s events crucial to the economy of the region.

“We are an event area,” he said. “If we don’t have events happening, there’s a lot of stuff that wouldn’t be happening.”

This sentiment is shared by other Placidians, even those without a direct economic stake in the tourism generated by Ironman.

Stephen Doxzon, dressed up as Waldo at The Bookstore Plus, stands for a picture on July 18. (News photo — Arthur Maiorella)

Maxwell Horowitz is one such person. He’s from Utica and is heading into his junior year at Paul Smith’s College. Living on campus this summer, he works at Eastern Mountain Sports in Lake Placid and has never watched an Ironman race.

“I’m interested in seeing what’s going on,” Horowitz said, though, “I’ve heard it gets really busy around here (during the weekend).”

While Horowitz is seeing his first Ironman, Stephen Doxzon has seen them all. As the retired owner of Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters in Saranac Lake, he’s been in the region for 37 years. He now works part time at The Bookstore Plus on Main Street in Lake Placid.

“It is what it is,” said Doxzon, who was dressed Tuesday — in the iconic red-and-white-striped hat and shirt and round eye glasses — as Waldo of the “Where’s Waldo?” book series. “It comes and takes over the village for a couple of days, and then the next thing comes. Rugby comes or lacrosse comes. (Ironman) is just another big event as far as I’m concerned. I don’t find it a huge inconvenience.”

Doxzen said the best way to approach the race is by just “going with the flow,” he did this for many years as a volunteer lifeguard, now just spectating.

Trey Griffith, a manager at the local restaurant the Breakfast Club Etc., stands for a picture on July 18. (News photo — Arthur Maiorella)

He said the best thing to see is the amateur Ironman racers finishing late at night, after most have gone home.

“You have to admire the athletes coming in at 11 p.m.”

Victoria Celeste, the owner of Where Did You Get That Hat?, talked about being inspired by Ironman athletes. She mainly feels that Ironman is worthwhile, being good for the village economically and fun to watch. However, as with many of the people interviewed, she recognizes the struggles hosting the Ironman brings to the village.

Mainly, Celeste said that hosting big events is just how life in Lake Placid is, struggle and all. She finished her interview in the same way many finished — with indifference.

“I think it’s a good event … but, I don’t really have a strong opinion on it,” she said.

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