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20th time around, it’s still amazing
July 20, 2018

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We vividly remember the first Ironman in Lake Placid, but to refresh our memories as the triathlon approaches its 20th annual running, we pulled out a copy of the Lake Placid News issue that followed that inaugural event in 1999.

Here are some things that jumped out at us:

- There were 1,657 triathletes registered, 1,462 started the race, and 1,380 officially finished. So it didn't start small, even though it was significantly smaller than it is now. This year's entry list has 2,589 racers, including 26 pros.

- "Ironman Fever" took hold pretty strongly throughout the community. Local officials raved about the event and looked forward to the rest of what was then a five-year contract with the big-name triathlon. Local volunteers were over the moon about helping, and racers went out of their way to thank them for what was described as extraordinary care.

- Ironman officials returned the praise. "I want to say that, just because there is a contract for five years, that doesn't mean the Ironman will be here for only five," Ironman organizing committee member Kevin Mackinnon told a reporter. "I don't see any reason not to have this for the next 20 or 30 years."

He called it, huh?

Another thing we couldn't help but notice is that the News and its sister paper, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, covered the heck out of that race. The newsroom staff at the time threw everything they had at Ironman and ended up with all kinds of stories: the buzz, the winners, the local finishers, the state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner's experience as a racer, and a cancer survivor who came in last, well after midnight, but kept on trucking thanks to volunteer aid.

You could look at our coverage of any of these annual Ironman races and see something similar. We have documented them every step of the way.

Five triathletes - including Lake Placid's own Brian Delaney, owner of High Peaks Cyclery - have been with this race literally every step, pedal and stroke of the way. Sunday they will take part in their 20th consecutive Ironman Lake Placid. That's 20 years of peak fitness - incredible.

This will also be the 20th year in which between 1,500 and 2,500 triathletes have come to Lake Placid with their families, friends, coaches, etc. That's an enormous economic impact. Plus, many of these triathletes come here in the months prior to the race to train on the unique course, which is renowned for both its difficulty and its scenery. That mix of challenge and beauty is a real draw to competitors like these.

"I think all of the athletes agreed that Lake Placid was the most beautiful Ironman course in the world," Mackinnon, the Ironman official, said after that first race. "Lake Placid and the Adirondacks is a made-for-triathlons site."

That's just as nice to hear now as it was in 1999. Let's keep it that way for another 20 years - at least.

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