Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ironman 2009 - Swim 2.4 - Bike 112 - Run 26.2

Each July, Lake Placid is privileged to host the Ford Ironman competition. Last year, we did not attend any of the event because we were B&B "newbies" and it was our first weekend to be "full!" This year, as seasoned veterans (Ha!), we decided that the Inn would survive our absence for a few hours.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ironman, it is a triathalon event consisting of three parts ... swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and finally, running a full 26.2 mile marathon!

The swimming portion began about 7 am. Since that is right in the middle of breakfast preparations, we will probably never get to witness that portion in person. But imagine... over 2,200 swimmers all plunging into Mirror Lake. From what we've been told, the swimmers get hit in the head, kicked in the stomach, and generally pummeled while swimming the entire length of Mirror lake 4 times. In fact, there are actually scuba divers who swim under the chaos looking for swimmers in distress ... or those who are getting "swum over" by the herd!

The following picture is courtesy of

And to give you an idea of what this looks like in motion... here is a one observer's video record of this year's swim start:

After serving breakfast and doing room service, we headed up to Keene to watch some of the biking portion of the race. We stood along the road with a handful of others, cheering as the athletes came down the hill, made the turn and headed back up the other side of a 56 mile loop. They rode the loop twice for a total of 112 miles.

One of my favorite things was watching our friend, Ruth. She has such a joyful spirit and I know that each cyclist appreciated her tribute as they passed by.

We were so inspired by watching the cyclists, we decided to head up to Lake Placid to watch the finishers. As we entered the village, we passed some of the marathoners just heading out ...

Once in town, we saw others who were nearing the end of the race ... having pushed their bodies to the limit for almost twelve hours.

As the finishers entered the Olympic speed skating oval, the cheers of the crowd seemed to energize them for the home stretch.

As each runner approached the finish line, the announcer called his/her name, where they were from and interesting trivia (such as "7 time finisher" or "62-year-old grandmother of four", etc). Each time a first-time finisher crossed the line, the announcer would shout, "John... you ... are... an... IIIIRRROONNNMMMAAANNN!!" (I still get chills just remembering!)

Each finisher had their "moment." Most ran across the line with their arms in the air. Some were a bit more subdued (or maybe exhausted?!). And then there were the "memorable" finishes... like several guys who laid down and rolled across, the girl who cartwheeled across, the couple who finished holding hands. Personally, my favorite finish occurred as a man and woman approached the finish line side by side. At the last second, he slowed his pace and let her cross first. Such a gentleman!

Each finisher was greeted by a team of volunteers who made assisted them to the sidelines.

One woman had the honor of placing a medal around the neck of each finisher. What a fun job!

Some scenes at the finish...

These are some of the bikes parked inside the Olympic speed skating oval. We were there from about 6:30 pm until about 9:30 pm and there were close to 1,000 athletes still out on the course. Remember ... they had started at 7:00 am!

We were amazed by how "spry" many of the finishers still looked. Check out the big smile and energetic stride on this young woman!

The best hair of the day...

Being an Ironman athlete is a huge commitment. Athletes train about 25-30 hours a week - in addition to their jobs! There are so many inspirational stories of men and women who've overcome incredible odds to compete. Even the ones who don't finish are champions!

The medal represents each athlete's personal journey of determination, perseverance and victory...

Curious about the winning times? The men's winner was Maik Twelsiek from Germany with a time of 8:36:37. The women's winner was Tereza Macel from the Czech Republic with a time of 9:29:36.

In order to be considered an official Ironman finisher, you must cross the finish line by midnight. This year's race ended dramatically as Paul Goldstone entered the arena with just seconds to spare. As the crowd roared, he gave it everything he had and crossed the finish line at .... 12:00:00! One fraction of a second later and it wouldn't have counted! Here is his finish:

It is impossible to adequately capture the thrill of that day, but hopefully these photos have given you a taste of the experience. And if you like this sort of thing, I invite you to join us next July. But book early! (2,200 athletes and their friends/families fill up the accommodations quickly)