LAKE PLACID — Looking down the streets covered in “Welcome Ironman Competitors” flags, it’s easy to see the Ironman triathlon has become more than just a race in the 20 years it’s been in Lake Placid.
The race, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon, had roughly 2,900 participants this year, but most of the hard work was already done before Sunday by a corps of roughly 2,500 volunteers.
“Working with the volunteers is just one of the most gratifying, awesome jobs you could ask for,” Volunteer Director Sue Cameron said. “They’re all so amazing, year after year.”
Different groups of volunteers are led by “captains” that report to Cameron. There are 86 captains that manage different areas of the race.
This year, the volunteers honored 12 captains that have volunteered at all 20 races in Lake Placid, with three of them acting as captains the whole time.
“It’s one of those type of events that once you get involved, it’s very inspirational, and it’s an emotional thing,” Cameron said. “You get an emotional attachment to the event, and some people stick with it for a long time.”
Cameron, a Lake Placid native herself, has been volunteer director for four years now, but has been around the event in some capacity since its inception, including volunteering during the first three races.
Because of this, she’s gotten to witness the race grow and change, and she loves how much a part of the community the race has become.
“You’ll see, driving around, all the businesses with welcome flags out, and even homeowners.
“It’s quite an all-consuming event for the community,” Cameron said. “I have a couple captains that have traveled to other races. They came back and said, ‘You know, it’s so different everywhere else.’ They said in Wisconsin that they went three or four blocks from where everything was happening, and people didn’t even know there was a race going on.”
‘WORK OF JOY’
Race Director Greg Borzilleri, another local, has also been involved since the beginning, even participating in the race in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
As race director, Borzilleri’s job focuses pretty heavily on getting the course ready for the athletes, and it’s a course he’s quite proud to be a part of.
“It’s been really interesting to watch the race go from basically a mom and pop organization to this kind of a corporate beast,” Borzilleri said. “It’s still special to the athletes, which is important. It’s the best Ironman venue outside of Kona, and that’s why people keep coming back here.”
That’s not to say it comes easily.
“It starts out meaning a lot of work, then it turns into some headaches and then it turns into a work of joy when it all comes together,” Borzilleri said.
The race itself encompasses a large chunk of the surrounding area, with the bicycle route extending out into the hills and towns around Lake Placid before making its way back to the Olympic Speed Skating Oval in town.
But the race’s effect on the area isn’t just in the tourism money it brings in or the course winding its way through the Adirondacks, but also in the money the Ironman Foundation donates to groups in the area.
According to a press release from the foundation, $110,000 of grant funding will go to 27 nonprofit initiatives and groups in the area.
By bringing at least 20 people to offer up time as volunteers, the groups earn a part of the pot, according to Cameron.
“That’s a big incentive for a lot of people,” Cameron said. “The foundation leaves behind a tremendous amount of money in every community that we race an Ironman in.”
This year’s grant total will bring the money donated since the first race in Lake Placid to $1.6 million.
Borzilleri enjoys his job as race director, but the difference that the foundation has made with the community is what he often takes heart in.
“It humbles me to be able to be involved with it at this level,” Borzilleri said. “As proud as I am of all the crew that we have, and all the hard work everybody does, the fact that we can give back to the community through the Ironman Foundation is amazing.”
The following groups from the Lake Placid area will be receiving grant money from the Ironman Foundation Community Fund
• Adirondack Wildlife Inc.
• Ausable River Association
• Educational Opportunity Fund for The Lake Placid Central School District
• Essex County Sheriff’s Office Benevolent Fund, Inc.
• I WILL Foundation
• Keene Public Library
• Lake Placid Community Beautification Association, Inc.
• Lake Placid Cross Country Team
• Lake Placid Essex County Quality Destination Inc.
• Lake Placid Outing Club
• Lake Placid PBA.
• Lake Placid Village Inc.
• Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service
• Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department
• Lake Placid/Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition Inc.
• Little Peaks Preschool
• Morrisonville-Schuyler Falls Volunteer Ambulance Service
• New York Conservation Officers Association
• North Country SPCA
• NYS Trooper Foundation
• Outbackriders Inc.
• Town of Black Brook
• Town of Jay
• Town of Keene
• United States Luge Association
• Village of Lake Placid Fire Department
• Wilmington Fire and Rescue