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Adirondack Lifestyle ™: Jul 24, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Overwrought Over Ironman

They're baaaaack. The Iron people that is. They are everywhere today in Lake Placid, New York, home to what is arguably the best and most challenging Ironman course in the continental United States. The 2,200 competitors will jump in Mirror Lake bright and early this Sunday morning to kick off what is certain to be a long and tough day of competition. But after 10 years of Ironman races and many thousands of training camp participants, the Ironman glow is fading at the impressive pace of an Ironman pro racer. Or maybe I should say the glow is fading from the green backs gleaned by this little mountain Village playing host to thousands of competitors. In other words, some people are just plain tired of the inconvenience and so-called arrogance of Ironman the event, and Iron people, the competitors. This seems like a good time to take a gander back to 1999, when an organization called the Adirondack Sports Commission was working with a Canadian race promoter to produce Ironman Lake Placid, the first Ironman competition ever held in the continental United States. At that time, the mission of this Adirondack Sports Commission, like sports commissions across the country, was to create economic development through sports. Despite substantial resistance from the region's State-subsidized Olympic venues manager, an equitable agreement was reached with the event owner. As a result of a coordinated public relations and education campaign, a pending lawsuit and court ordered injunction were dropped. The first year of Ironman Lake Placid was a learning experience, but the race went off without a hitch and Lake Placid was on its way to ten profitable years of hosting the most popular Ironman race in the country. In the meantime, the Sports Commission was mothballed and it seems in its absence, no one was managing the relationship. The hugely successful and Lake Placid-loving Canadian race promoter has since sold his U.S. races to a large multi-national firm, Adirondack locals are throwing condiments at cyclists and folks are talking about pulling the plug on hosting this event. It might be time to remember why Lake Placid was interested in hosting the event 10 years ago: economic development. This doesn't mean roll over and play sycophant to Ironman and athletes; it means sit down, negotiate, compromise and find solutions. I know for a fact this works. I know because I was the Executive Director of the Adirondack Sports Commission who helped the Canadian entrepreneur pull off the first Ironman Lake Placid 10 years ago. Economic development through sports works; just ask the hundreds of Sports Commissions around the country who are chomping at the bit to host this Ironman race should Lake Placid's complacency take its toll.