Home > Racing

Why is Ironman Lake Placid such a popular race-cation?

Started in 1999, Ironman Lake Placid is one of the oldest full-distance Ironman qualifiers in the United States

Photo by: Getty Images

When it got its start in 1999, Ironman Lake Placid was only the second Ironman event in Canada and the United States. That year it joined Ironman Canada in Penticton as one of only two full-distance Ironman qualifying events for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The race was an immediate hit for those who live in Eastern Canada, especially from triathlon hotspots like Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, who can easily drive to Lake Placid for both the race and pre-race training camps in the area. That same year Ironman Florida would be added to the Ironman series, the beginning of a surge of new events over the next two decades.

Lake Placid is no stranger to hosting major international events, having hosted two winter Olympic Games in 1932 and 1980. The rich history of the event is only enhanced by the finish on the Olympic speed skating oval where Eric Heiden claimed five gold medals. Just above the oval, which is also the site of the transition area, is the famed hockey arena where the “miracle on ice” took place at the 1980 Games, where the United States beat the Soviet Union.

While construction forced organizers to move the transition and start of the race this year, the goal is to return to the regular transition and finish line in 2022.

The key to Lake Placid’s popularity over the years hasn’t just been the easy access for athletes to come from popular triathlon hotspots (including New York City) – the availability of lots of accommodation options, restaurants, shopping, family activities and the spectacular scenery makes this a destination event and vacation spot all at once.

Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, New York.

An incredible course

Beginning with a 3.8 km swim in pristine Mirror Lake, the two-loop swim course features guidelines under the water used for competitive rowing that make it easy to stay on track. With water temperatures typically around 21 degrees Celsius, athletes are almost always guaranteed pleasant water conditions and a wetsuit-legal swim.

As beautiful as the swim is, the bike course is even more spectacular. The two-loop, 180 km course heads through the beautiful Adirondacks, featuring a long descent down to the village of Keene and finishing with an 18-km climb through the Wilmington Notch that takes athletes past Whiteface Mountain, one of New York’s premier ski resorts.

The two-loop run course takes athletes past Lake Placid’s horse show grounds and the Olympic ski jumps before following scenic River Road to the turnaround. The challenging run course finishes with a tough climb back up to another out-and-back alongside Mirror Lake – after the second time through athletes get to enjoy their chance to shine as the hit the finish line on the Olympic oval.

The looped courses make Lake Placid one of the most spectator-friendly courses on the Ironman circuit, making it a great venue for friends and family to enjoy watching the race.

The Adirondack mountains as seen from Whiteface Mountain. Photo: Getty Images


Whether you want to take in a scenic hike to one of the high peaks, or take in some of the Olympic venues for a zip line over the ski jumps or a ride down the Olympic bobsled run, there’s no shortage of things to do in Lake Placid – there’s a reason its one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Northeastern United States. Athletes and their families are sure to enjoy their time in Lake Placid, one of Ironman’s most popular race-cation stops.

Next year’s race will take place on July 24, 2022. For more information on the race and to register, click here.