This year will mark the 10th Ironman Lake Placid. Race Director Jeff Edwards has been there since beginning, starting out as a volunteer in 1999 before picking up the reins to manage the event. In this interview, Mr. Edwards talks about the 2007 race, his background in race production and what we can expect at the race in 2008.
How do you feel this year's race went overall?
It was a wonderful day and we had great weather. Nice and cool in the morning and sunshine most of the day during the bike and the run, and then it cooled down nicely in the evening. So that’s great for us, great for spectators and all around it was great day.
Were there any major differences from last year to this year?
The day before the event last year we had tremendous rains and winds and relatively cool temperatures. We woke up Sunday morning and thought the bad weather might continue but lo and behold the sun came out and it was a pretty nice day. But it’s always a little fearful when the whether is not that cooperative.
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the race and it will feature the professional men’s division. Do you expect that to make the race any different?
Well the course will be the same and the format will be the same. It’s just a matter of the extras that will be a part of it to make it fun, and that’s to commemorate 10 years here and at the same time kick off the next decade hopefully.
What interested you in race production and how did you get involved in Ironman?
When the race came here in 1999, I had no clue about what it was beyond what any other person knew. I’d done short distance races and seen the Hawaii race on TV. So I volunteered the first year and for the next couple years after as well. I did the race in 2002. After the race I just sort of said [to the organizers], hey do you want some help working some other events? So I went to some other events and the rest is sort of history.
Did you have a background in event production?
No, I’m a school teacher. I teach English at a small boarding school here in Lake Placid, so that’s what I do the rest of the year, and then I do this during the summer and also work a couple other events. I just came back from Coeur D’Alene (Idaho) and then I’ll go out to British Columbia in August.
What kind of impact does a race on this scale bring to an area like Lake Placid?
Well this place has become a destination for triathletes, particularly from the Northeast and Eastern Canada. Mainly because it’s drivable from a lot of major cities and people can come here on the weekends prior to the event and train. That’s really become a big part of the economic impact here and has helped changed the culture of the town. I mean, we are an Olympic town, but his is a hyper fitness sort of thing and it’s really changed the personality of the town. Believe it or not people move here to do the event, particularly young people who don’t have a lot of other responsibilities, so it’s kind of interesting. It’s been more than people every imagined.
Where do you see triathlon and Ironman going in the next few years?
We have a really great niche and loyal following of athletes who can’t seem to help themselves, they just seem to want to do it over and over again. I don’t know why that is. Obviously they have a great experience but it’s highly addictive. I think at the same time not everyone’s going to do an Ironman. It’s an interesting question about the future of the sport.
Do you plan to do any races yourself?
I’d have to get some sleep first. I haven’t had a lot of that over the last few months. I’ve just moved to a different part of my life, since I used to do a lot of racing. I’d like to get back to it but it’s probably not going to happen in the near future. This is a huge time commitment and I don’t have time to train.
Do you see doing race direction full time or would you keep your teaching job?
I like the diversity of my job so it’s neat to have different challenges at different times of the year. Lake Placid Ironman keeps me busy.
Why does the town of Lake Placid appeal so strongly to the international sports community?
Well it’s an event community and the Olympic tradition is strong: 1932, 1980, and so there is a strong commitment to continuing national and international level competitions here -- everything from speed skating to luge to bobsled, skeleton, Nordic skiing, biathlon, ski jumping, alpine skiing… so the Olympic venues are very active and continuously updated. The goal was to keep people coming for these competitions. So there’s no doubt events are a huge part of the calendar here, and a lot of them are related to the Olympic tradition. I will say this place has become a kind of Ironman town now. You saw it today. People from outside the area see it as an Ironman town now.