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Cross Border Racing: Central New York

As you plan for next year's racing season, why not go easy on the wallet AND go south?

As you plan for next year’s racing season, why not look for a weekend race getaway that’s still easy on the wallet and let your racing – but not your performance – go south?

Just across the border for Ontario and Quebec athletes a surplus of triathlon goodies await: New York State’s Central region is a gem, often overshadowed by the state’s eponymous metropolitan city to the south and the Adirondacks to the north. The area spans roughly eight counties and, despite its diminutive population, still boasts a thriving triathlon community. “CNY,” as the locals say, is one of the sports’ best understated destinations.

CNY’s lake-flecked landscape makes up for its land locked geography with small towns and uniquely scenic State Parks. With well maintained roads and waterways that wind through rural landscapes, CNY offers an impressive selection of triathlon-oriented tourism. And, for carbo-loading and post-race rewards, the area is home to great microbreweries and award-winning wineries, too.

So, as you transition out of the off-season and begin to click around for new places to race, why not take advantage of the loonie’s strength and head south for something new? If you venture just a little off the beaten path, you’ll see that CNY has more to offer the multi-sport Canadian than outlet malls, fast food and freeways.

The World Triathlon Corporation thinks so, anyway. Just months ago, the organization added Syracuse, the largest city in the region, to its 2010 line up of global Ironman 70.3 events. For eastern Canadians, the event (together with the Subaru Ironman 70.3 Muskoka) is one of the most accessible qualifying events for the 70.3 championship race in Clearwater, Florida.

Syracuse will also play host to its second annual Aflac Iron Girl, a unique, women-specific event that’s expanded exponentially since its launch in 2004. With a mission to “empower women toward a healthy lifestyle,” the Iron Girl brand is quickly becoming a resource for female athletes new to the sport.

Just east of the city, Green Lakes State Park is a wilderness escape for residents of Fayetteville and Dewitt, two of Syracuse’s neighbouring communities. Nestled in an old-growth forest with over eight miles of running trails, the two lakes are a popular training destination for local endurance athletes. With a campground, beach and full amenities, it’s also the perfect place to leave friends and family to relax while you log your last 3 km swim before the big day. The local YMCA hosts a sprint triathlon here as well, an early-season event that honours each first-time triathlete with a medal. It’s also a favorite for the local pros.

Further east and slightly south, the CNY triathlon club will host its 10th anniversary races in the whimsical town of Cazenovia next year. A recently added USAT-sanctioned Olympic-distance triathlon and aquabike is sure to lead to a surge in participation next summer. A swim on the calm Cazenovia Lake, a gently rolling partial-loop bike and a residential road course means the event has something for both short and middle distance athletes. The day is a festive, friendly showcase of the areas’ best.

From Cazenovia, Highway 20 weaves west through apple orchards and alpaca farms to the Finger Lakes: a chain of crisp blue lakes and one of the country’s best wine-producing regions. The areas around Cayuga, Keuka, and Seneca Lakes alone boast over 100 wineries and vineyards and a new distillery to boot. The farm-to-table food movement is in full swing here and there are as many places to eat as there are to sip (see for example, Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg, near Cayuga Lake).

If cool weather racing is your thing, wait until Labour Day weekend (also the first Monday in September in the U.S.) for a full weekend of tri-oriented events in Skaneatles: choose from a sprint triathlon (the “Skinnyman”), a one-mile open water swimming race, and both cycling and running events.

The posh 19th century town sits at the north tip of the lake that shares its name. In the summer this town draws many tourists looking for one-of-a-kind shops and galleries. Visitor accommodations include bed-and-breakfasts and cottages including the luxurious Mirbeau Inn and Spa.

Two lakes over, just outside of Ithaca, the local triathlon club will host its Cayuga Lake Triathlon on Sunday, August 1st. Taughannock Falls State Park provides a stunning backdrop to the race, which features a swim in cool Cayuga Lake, a bike with a view, and a run through the gorge to the highest waterfall in the Northeast. The park has swimming, a playground, picnic areas and hiking trails for the family. Tent, RV and cabin camping is available and there’s a small marina as well for boating adventures on Cayuga Lake. Ithaca is home to Cornell University and is as stimulating as any bustling college town. The town has a rich Saturday and Sunday farmer’s market on the lake, a globe-spanning smattering of eateries and the coffee snob’s favorite, Gimme! Coffee.

At the top of neighboring Seneca Lake to the west, Geneva brings its annual Musselman race weekend to the Finger Lakes in mid-July. The most popular event of the weekend, (voted Triathlete Magazine’s “Most Family Friendly Race”), is the Musselman half-Ironman race. Also on the ticket are an aquabike, sprint triathlon and super sprint for the kids. The deep-water start swim finishes in the harbour, followed by a rolling, single-loop bike course starting at Seneca Lake State Park. The bike includes shoreline stretches on both Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, passing by wineries, small towns and Mennonite farming villages. The single-loop run follows a lakefront path before returning through the city of Geneva. On the Saturday before the race the campus of Hobart & William Smith College hosts a pre-race dinner which is free for all participants. The event is also one of the most environmentally progressive triathlons in the region – next year they’ll be outfitting athletes with 100% bamboo race T-shirts.

Even further west you can get warmed up in early June with a sprint, intermediate, aquabike or duathlon at the Keuka Lake Triathlon. One of the more far-flung lakes, Keuka is a Y-shaped lake even less heavily traveled than the others. Keuka Lake State Park offers camping and family recreation, and the water is touted as one of the cleanest of the Finger Lakes.

This year save your pennies for routes, crowds and wines you’ve never encountered. Just a few hundred kilometers away CNY promises its best.

Race Information

Syracuse Ironman. Sunday, Sept. 19. https://www.ironmansyracuse.com

Syracuse Iron Girl. 2010’s race date TBA December 1, 2009. https://www.irongirl.com/Events.htm

Keuka Lake Triathlon. June 6. https://www.keukalaketri.com/index.html

Cayuga Lake Triathlon. Sunday August 1. https://www.ithacatriathlonclub.org/race/default.html

Musselman Half Ironman. Sunday, July 11. https://www.musselmantri.com (Triathlete Magazine’s “Most Family-friendly race.”)

Green Lakes, Fayetteville. TBA (always in late June). https://www.downtownsyracuseymca.org/Downtown/ymca_triathlon.aspx

Skinny Man. Labor Day Weekend. https://www.skanraces.com/triathlon.html

Cazenovia Triathlon: TBA (always early August). https://www.cazenoviatriathlon.org

Tourism Resources

Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau: https://www.visitsyracuse.org/

Finger Lakes Wine Country: https://www.fingerlakeswinecountry.com/

New York State Park: https://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/