Friday Top 5: The best of Lake Placid

Walk down the main street in Lake Placid any time from Thursday through the weekend and you will see Ironman. The branded race is everywhere and the people are everywhere. Nearly 3,000 athletes descend on the area — more than the number of people who actually live in Lake Placid according to the 2000 U.S. Census. And that’s not counting friends, family, out of town volunteers and other general spectators.

Knowing a bit about the town and about triathletes helps one navigate through this weekend. So today’s Top 5 offers the best of Lake Placid. Those who have been to the Tri-Lakes region, regardless of time of year, what are you favorite things about the area?

1. Mirror Lake

It’s the lake in downtown (if a village has a downtown) of Lake Placid. It is calm and clear and perfect for swimming, whether it’s a mile or two in your wetsuit or a to cool off near the small beach. Canoes  and paddle boats pepper the waterway. For a scenic run, a loop around the lake is 2.7 miles. While at various times of day the lake can be bustling sharing the energy of the outdoors, there is almost always a location that brings calm, reflection and smiles.

2. Good eats

Yes, you can find a few national chain places in Lake Placid and nearby Saranac Lake, but the local fare is good, plentiful and with a variety of options. You can get burgers and wings, a variety of pasta, steak and seafood, fancy sandwiches, coffee and muffins and even sushi. Some of my favorite finds are places where I don’t even remember their names, but of the ones I do which I love include Soul Shine Bagel, the Big Mountain Deli & Creperie and the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. And this year, I’m going to get myself one of those Nutella and banana crepes. I’ve been dreaming about that for two years now and I’m hoping a big training weekend will justify the caloric intake.

3. Activity

So by now you know about the Ironman and if you have any friends who are triathletes you also know that many come to Lake Placid nearly year round to train on the Ironman course. But there are other things to do than ride the 56 mile loop. There is the entire Olympic experience, in which you can ride part of the bobsled course or try your hand at biathlon (the only sport, they say, which involves ski wax and bullets) or go ice skating in the historic building that housed the Miracle on Ice.

Then, there’s hiking. And lots of it. Lake Placid is often the base for those who wish to climb any (or all) of the 46 high peaks in the Adirondack mountains. But along with the big climbs are day hikes in and around many of the peaks. I’ve heard in the winter there’s good ice climbing here too, but I have to witness that.

4. Bicycle shops

There is mountain and road biking aplenty in the region and Lake Placid has two shops: Placid Planet Bicycles and High Peaks Cyclery. Placid Planet has the distinction of being open 24-hours during Ironman weekend. Yes a 24-hour bike shop race weekend. It’s like an emergency room for your Specialized. High Peaks Cyclery has your bike needs covered but also has gear, and expertise, for other outdoor pursuits.

5. The question

Come to Lake Placid during Ironman weekend and you will run into people you know. It’s a given. Come here alone and you can enjoy the time by yourself or meet up with one of dozens of friends you didn’t even realize were here. It’s part of the definition of “community” (a topic coming to a blog post near you soon) but that community will also always ask you one particular question in Lake Placid this weekend:

Are you standing in line Monday?

Translation: Are you registering for next year’s Ironman Lake Placid? The  etymology of the question comes from would-be participants having to stand in line the day after the race in order to sign up for the following year. Lake Placid has a history of closing out before registration even opens online, and so people come from far and wide to stand in line Sunday night after the race for the joy of getting into this particular Ironman. That need has waned in recent years, but the Monday line still exists.

For the record, I will not be in that line. I love Lake Placid too much to race it. That’s just me.

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