LAKE PLACID - Joel Harwood just wants to have fun; Ironman style.
Harwood, 41, of Elizabethtown, was one of more than 2,200 athletes from across the globe competing in the ninth annual Ford Ironman Lake Placid triathlon July 26, the grueling race where each participant must complete a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon.
"I have always had an interest in the Ironman. I saw the Ironman a couple of years ago, and just loved it. I wanted to compete."
But Harwood had other reasons for going after his goals. In 2007, he won a months-long battle with a brain tumor.
"When I had the tumor, it and some friends pushed me to do it," he said prior to the race. "I'm very happy I'm able to be in the race. On Sunday I'm going to go out there and have fun."
After training for nine months, Harwood felt ready.
As dawn broke that morning, the streets of Lake Placid were nearly empty. Traffic to much of Lake Placid was closed from 5 a.m. until the last racer able to qualify crossed the finish line at midnight.
A steady steam of cars stopped in front of the Olympic Speed Skating Oval on Main Street to drop off athletes. The air was thick with the smell of magic markers as dozens of volunteers in blue T-shirts wrote the identifying race number on the arms and legs of the roughly 2,500 participants.
Harwood was flanked by two friends and trainers, Michael Manosh and Tim Rielly, who offered last minute advice. He credited Manosh, a co-worker and two-time Ironman finisher, with helping him outline a training schedule to compete in the challenge.
By 7 a.m. over 2,000 swimmers, all outfitted in black wet-suits and color coded swim-caps, were in Mirror Lake, listening as The National Anthem played on loudspeakers. Then, with a blast of sound, the water came alive with arms, legs and splashing water.