Pushing the Limits

Ironman gives locals chance
to compete vs. top athletes

Economic impact felt in La Grange
from cycling route that winds through area

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

August 2012 Edition

August 2012 Edition

(August 2012) – On Sunday, Aug. 26, Oldham County will once again feel the impact from the 2012 Ironman Louisville triathlon. The effect on the town of La Grange will be especially significant, since part of the course runs through La Grange, and continues down Hwy. 42 to Goshen and Skylight.
“We try to make an effort to showcase our retail shops and restaurants on Main Street for this event,” said Linda Goin, executive director of Discover Downtown La Grange. “The event usually impacts the residences and businesses along the race route, which includes downtown and part of the county.”
Because it is such a well-known, day-long event for the competitors, many family and friends line the route to cheer on the competitors. The Ironman Louisville triathlon is comprised of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of bike riding and 26.2 miles of running on a course that meanders through Jefferson, Oldham and Henry counties in Kentucky.
“We hope that the number of people coming to La Grange for this portion of the race will take advantage of shopping and dining in town,” Goin said.
Previously, visitors drove to La Grange, and Discover Downtown La Grange and the city partnered to provide buses to town from the designated parking area. Last year, the Louisville YMCA provided the buses, she said.
This will be the second year that the YMCA will do so, and the local branch of the organization in Oldham County is also in charge of coordinating the annual Community Festival, to be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the lawn of the Oldham County Courthouse in La Grange.

• Sunday, Aug. 26, in Louisville, Ky., with cycling route winding through Oldham, Henry counties.

• Visit www.Ironman.com

Peggy Kilgore, executive director of the Oldham County YMCA in Buckner, said the Community Festival will be comprised of vendors, a disc jockey who will call out competitors’ names as they go by, and children’s activities.
Kilgore said a member of Discover Downtown La Grange used to organize the Community Festival, but it was turned over to the YMCA in 2011. “Ironman runs the buses out here,” she said.
“It should be a good day for La Grange,” said Kilgore. The bike portion of the Ironman Louisville triathlon route runs through Goshen and Skylight, covering residential areas. Due to increased traffic and the safety of the bikers, the triathlon is heavily announced throughout the area.
The route is determined by the Louisville Sports Commission and the Ironman Commission. The Ironman triathlon is a series of 28 races throughout the world organized by the World Triathlon Corp, based in Tampa, Fla. The races enable competitors for qualification for the Ironman World Championships.
To qualify for the world championship, athletes must score well on a point ranking system. Points are earned based on an athlete’s final placement in Ironman and Ironman 70.3. This latter race is also held all over the world and is half the distance of the Ironman.

Ironman Swimmer

Photo courtesy of Ironman Louisville

Competitors must swim 2.4 miles
in the Ohio River.

The Ironman series was begun on Feb. 18, 1978, in Hawaii, said Patrick Alberts, Public Relations Coordinator for the Ironman organization. A group of 15 competitors, including founder John Collins, came together to see who was the best athlete among them based on the disciplines of swimming, running and biking.
The Ironman competition sells out quickly, said Alberts. Nearly 2,500 tickets are sold to athletes who want to compete against one another in one of two categories: professional field or age group athletes.
“There is one overall male winner and one overall female winner in the professional field,” said Alberts. “The top male and the top female finishers are awarded $25,000 each.”
In the age group competitors, athletes must place in the top 50 for male and in the top 30 for female in points to qualify for the world championship competition. This competition will take place Oct. 13, 2012, in Kona, Hawaii.
Kilgore said that the YMCA has a group of multi-sport members who will be competing. The goal of the YMCA is to “make sure everyone in La Grange has a good time, sees their family and returns to La Grange.”
Trying to draw visitors to Main Street in La Grange can be a difficult challenge, according to Goin. “Most of the visitors go to Jefferson Street to cheer on the cyclists, and a few stray to Main Street to shop.”
Nevertheless, Discover Downtown La Grange supports the Community Festival and the race and “has encouraged the shop owners to display merchandise on the sidewalks to entice visitors to shop.”
Many believe that having the Ironman triathlon visit an area is a benefit to the community. Alberts said that “once we enter the different cities, there is a big economic impact due to the amount of spectators, families and friends who come to cheer their athletes along.”
The event “does have a positive impact on downtown La Grange. It brings additional business to beverage and food merchants,” said Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele.
He believes one reason might be attributed to the fact that the cyclists come through the La Grange Loop twice. Families and friends may wait around in town looking for something to do while waiting for the cyclists to return.
“The people who support the cyclists come to stand along the route to see the cyclists. There’s no other place like it along the route,” he said.
In anticipation of traffic issues, “the race operates with roads being open,” said Voegele. “There will be some La Grange street closures and cars re-routed along Hwy. 146.”
He said that motorists along Hwy. 42 need to be aware of the cyclists and take extra precautions. “There will be a lot of cyclists out riding; they just keep on coming.”
When planning for the Ironman Louisville triathlon to come to Oldham County, Voegele said that the “Ironman people worked well with us to minimize disruptive obstacles and ensure traffic safety.”

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