During the 2.4 mile swim, and throughout the day, motivating high-energy music filled the air. Portions of the race were lined with fences to protect the athletes and offer intimate viewing for spectators.
The fences were lined with fans, many of them in special T-Shirts created for the day. You could spot a cluster of fans by the color of their shirts.
Closer inspection told you who they were cheering for or offered other triathlon thoughts like "Real men wear lycra" or "You run... I'll nap."
Harwood had his own posse, all of them clad in bright orange T-Shirts that read "Ironman Joel Harwood 2009" on the front and "Team Harwood" on the back.
In Lake Placid, Harwood's supporters included his wife, Barbara; children, Claire and Hugh; parents, brothers, sisters, several nieces and nephews, and many friends. In Keene, his in-laws, Al and AnnaBell Kurtz, and other friends were waiting along the race route to offer further encouragement.
At least three times during the race, he found Barbara in the crowd and kissed her. Later, when asked if she thought about her husband's, brain tumor during the race, Barbara shook her head.
"We don't think about it much anymore," she said. "He was diagnosed, we did what we could to address it, and we were lucky."
Although Barbara claims she doesn't spend much time thinking about Joel's illness, she could easily rattle off dates and numbers of significance surrounding it.
Diagnosed with the tumor in February 2007, he quickly underwent surgery to remove it, followed by several weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. By June 2007, he had a clear brain scan.
"We keep watching," she said. "Last week another scan showed Joel was tumor-free."
But now Joel had another battle on his hands: completing one of the most demanding athletic events in the world. Late into the evening, he did just that, finishing the race with a time of 14 hours, 39 minutes and 42 seconds.