A field of 1,500 competitors begins a 2.4-mile swim in Mirror Lake at the start of the 1999 Ironman Lake Placid.
AP Photo/Press-Republican, Mike Dowd
The Ford Ironman Lake Placid (IMUSA) is one of the longest running Ironman events in North America. The 140.6-mile competition takes place against the picturesque backdrop of Mirror Lake and Whiteface Mountain and is known for its challenging bike course and variable weather.
But there's more to this race than just your typical swim, bike and run. Here is a quick review of the top questions we get asked about racing Ironman Lake Placid.
Is There Really a Cable Under the Water for the Swim?
Absolutely. Experience across hundreds of athletes has shown that IMUSA will most likely be your fastest possible IM swim. With everyone in a ridiculously calm lake, little stands in your way. The course is a bit narrow, however, meaning the out and back is longer than you might expect, and the usual no-holds-barred swim turns are expected. If full contact swimming isn’t your thing, you can line up as wide as the start line will let you knowing that it will only add a few meters to your overall swim.
More: How to Excel at the Ironman Swim
What Is the Hardest Part of the Bike Course?
While the entire bike is by no means easy, athletes can take some comfort in knowing that the course is consistent. You are generally doing one thing at a time, for a relatively long time: climbing, descending, or riding the flats.
Without a doubt the key to nailing the bike is properly riding the hills of the section that runs from Jay to Wilmington. On the first lap this is approximately Mile 35 to Mile 40 (91-96 on lap two). This section is often under-estimated or overlooked by competitors. Everyone knows about the climb out of town, the long descent to Keene, the out and back, and of course the climb back into Lake Placid from Wilmington...but they forget this critical section from Upper Jay to Wilmington.
Did you know there are three distinct climbs on this section, with the first one lasting anywhere from six to 10 minutes? Ouch! This section is hard because most athletes don't pay attention to it, ride it too hard on the first lap and pay for it dearly later in the day.
More: 6 Secrets of the Ironman Bike
What Can My Family Do on Race Day?
Lake Placid is a great place to spectate, especially if the weather holds. Next to the swim start, athletes pass by twice on the bike and four times on the run. We recommend that families commit to either a full day of spectating with short trips into town for food, or take the first half of the day while the race is out on the bike (after the swim, of course) to hike, picnic, rest, etc. Then commit to being down on the course from 1 p.m. on until your finish.
The finish line itself has a fantastic vibe and is a must-see late at night on race day. Whichever your clan decides, help them out during race week by pointing out all the possibilities and available amenities.