The good and bad of Ironman Lake Placid

We moved from Brooklyn to Upper Jay in July 2003. We bought an old farmhouse and 5 acres along the AuSable River in a spot we’d been assured had never flooded.

We learned that the Ironman cycling route was past our house, and that a seemingly endless stream of cyclists would zoom by up Route 9N twice every race day. So, we made lots of cheery signs including one on a large old barn board that said “IRONFOLK.”

It was so exciting and fun to be a spectator from our own home. For nine years, on a Sunday in late July, we sat on Adirondack chairs on our front lawn and cheered the athletes. We never minded not being able to leave home that one day.

Living in Lake Placid

We have lived at Northwood School, where my spouse works, since 2012. We regularly attend the Ironman finish line celebration after dark, which is always fun. This year, Ironman’s massive transition area was set up on Northwood’s big campus.

We learned that, on race morning, the athletes would pass our front porch as they left the lake, all 1,795 of them in a long huffing-puffing stream, wetsuits in various stages of being peeled off. In preparation for this procession, Ironman staff installed a blue carpet from Mirror Lake Drive all the way up past our porch to the transition area on the athletic fields at the top of our hill.

The weekend approached. For days, athletes and their loved ones trudged or ran or biked up and down the hill past us, where we sat watching on the porch.

Most often they did not look at us, but sometimes we interacted pleasantly. We put up lots of cheery encouraging signs. On race morning, we sat on the porch with our neighbors watching the parade along the blue carpet. Our neighbors have African drums and we drummed and cheered for the athletes. It was all so fun to spectate from that angle.


Yes, I have complaints about the Ironman event. There are three minor ones, all due to thoughtless people among a largely professional and family-friendly bunch.

First is the bicyclists who obstruct moving vehicles. They ride in packs on our two-lane mountain highways and force vehicle drivers to slow down behind them.

Second is the athletes who discard their goo packets and other trash alongside the road.

Third is the foul language sometimes employed by athletes whose voices carry amazingly well despite the physical effort they’re putting out. Sometimes two or more folks with carrying voices are having a cocktail party conversation as they run or bike along. That is not annoying, but the profanity is.

Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on Ironman. My family has enjoyed it greatly. I wouldn’t mind if it departed Lake Placid in 2023, but I wouldn’t mind if it stayed.

(Martha Pritchard Spear lives in Lake Placid.)