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Ironman Lake Placid Course Review

Ironman Triathlon Lake Placid Course

Let’s talk about Placid. Lake Placid. Actually, Ironman Lake Placid to be more precise. The word placid means “not easily upset”. Probably because Mirror Lake can frequently be calm. Oh, how we wish our stomachs would follow suit in the moments before the race starts! But we digress.

Let us tell you a bit about this storied race. Well first, let us tell you about the town. Lake Placid was founded in the early 19th century as a base for iron ore mining operations. Iron ore? Yep…Iron. Kinda fitting, wouldn’t you say? Eventually, it was discovered by the “upper crust” of society who fell in love with the lake and the surrounding area.

Rumor has it that the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System (anyone remember that?) created the Placid Park Club in the late 1800’s. The club was a focal point for outdoor activity and over time, the area became closely associated with athletics. The natural beauty and the hills convinced the International Olympic Committee to award the winter games to Lake Placid not once but twice.

Thanks to this culture of fitness and the natural beauty, Ironman selected Lake Placid for one of its first events.

Where to stay

Due to its popularity as a tourist destination, lodging is plentiful in the Lake Placid area. Prices can tend to be high but options do exist. If you’re on a budget, you may want to look in the Saranac Lake area. It’s about 15 to 20 minutes away from Lake Placid but rates could be up to 40% less than comparable rooms in town. If you’re in the Saranac Lake area, you might want to consider The Point Hotel. It’s absolutely charming.

The Point is over near Saranac Lake

Of course, if you’d prefer to be closer to the action, there are quite a few homes for rent through VRBO and a wide range of hotels to choose from. On the more expensive end, you could consider the Mirror Lake Inn. We think it is just beautiful.

The Weather

The race is during the summer…right? Well, yes..technically it is. But you still might want to consider bringing a pair of arm warmers. While being highly variable, the temperatures seem to frequently be on the cooler side. It should warm up as the day goes along but the mornings can be cool’ish.

Rain is not an unusual occurrence, so in the spirit of being completely unhelpful, we’d say…be prepared for anything.

The Swim

These could be considered "swells" on the appropriately named Mirror Lake


Spoiler alert…there’s a cable under the water. It follows the buoy line and will be your personal yellow brick road.

The swim is a two loop affair that is in Mirror Lake. Why the name you ask? Because…yep…it’s usually mirror calm. This could be one of your fastest swims in an Ironman due to the calmness. Of course (as with almost all of them) it will probably get crowded. The course is a bit on the narrow side and most people follow the cable, so contact should be expected.

We do like the fact that they encourage “self-seeding” for the swim. Our advice is to be honest and seed according to “reality” not “hopes”. It should make for a much more peaceful swim.

Also, we’re not Geometry experts but we’ve been told that moving a few yards over to the left won’t add that much more distance to your swim but could pay dividends as far as bumping goes.


6,800 feet of elevation gain. Need we say more? Yes? Ok, how about this. The Lake Placid area is also a popular staging ground for climbing expeditions into the Adirondacks. There are 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains and those who complete these climbs may join the Adirondack 46ers.

What’s that got to do with the bike? Well, in other words, get ready to climb. The course is tough. No ifs, ands or buts about it. It is also a two loop deal and each lap finishes with a butt kicking 10’ish mile climb up an area called the “notch”.

On the bright side, the course is also stunning.

Now, we’ve said this many times but we’re not in the business of giving coaching advice. After all, “Free Advice” is often worth what you pay for it! But still, we just have to say that a lot of people are so excited to be on the bike in one of the most famous Ironman races that they just pound the first section. There are hills early in the course and we know the desire could be there to “show em who’s boss”! It’s up to you but we wouldn’t. In any event, you’ll get another shot on the second loop.

The Bike is hard but the views help ease the pain...a bit. Don't they?


Let’s talk about the run. Hhmm…what can we say. Well, not what can we say but how can we say it. The run course is tough too. Mainly because you'll probably running on tired legs. It's got about 1,400 feet of elevation gain on the course (versus 358 at IMAZ), so it is not flat.  There just aren’t that many synonyms for “tough”. But it is.   It’s a two loop course but the good news is that it is spectator friendly. You’ll pass through the city twice each loop for a total of four (yay math!) times.

As with the bike, the course is pleasing to the eyes and you’ll get to see memorabilia from the Olympics and you’ll get a view of Mirror Lake again.

The Finish

Every Ironman finish is amazing. The Lake Placid finish has the added benefit of taking place on the Olympic speed skating track. It’s scenic and lined with your adoring fans. We wish we could bottle the feeling that one gets at this point. It’s just incredible.

So there’s our review of the course. If you’re doing IMLP, we hope you race with heart and courage. We’ll be cheering for you!