Ready for Tinman?


June 24, 2017 will be the 35th year of the Tupper Lake Tinman — one of the most historic Tinman triathlons in the United States. This type of triathlon dates back to 1979 in Hawaii. It was an idea by four athletes who wanted the varied challenges of swim/bike/run, but without doing months of training for the epic distances involved in a full Ironman Triathlon.

They hit on a great concept. There were many other athletes for whom a "mini-tri" had great appeal. Turns out, Tupper Lake is a fantastic setting for this kind of challenge. And many will agree, it's definitely one of the prettiest half-Iron courses anywhere.

The distant mountains and lovely Raquette Pond is only a fraction of the scenery which backdrops the race. (Yes. We call that a pond.)

Add a large number of interested local athletes, plenty of race volunteers, and scores of spontaneous cheering sections, and this race has become an enduring summer highlight for racers and spectators, alike.

Go the distance

True to its roots in flexibility and personalization, the Tupper Lake Tinman offers a choice of five different levels:

  • Tinman Half-Iron 70.3 - Swim: 1.2 mile / Bike: 56 mile / Run: 13.1 mile
  • Aquabike - Swim: 1.2 mile / Bike: 56 mile
  • Relay (2 to 3 members) - Swim: 1.2 mile / Bike: 56 mile / Run: 13.1
  • Olympic - Swim: .94 mile / Bike: 24 mile / Run: 6.2 mile
  • Sprint - Swim: .6 mile / Bike: 12.4 mile / Run: 3.1 mile

It's a well-oiled machine now, but in the beginning, the finish line was two people holding a rope.

This was the brainchild of Keith Walsh, Tinman race director for the first three years of the event. He knew there was a pool of athletic talent to draw from, and enough of a lure to pull in others who wanted to experience this unique venue.

The idea was to get an event that would grow. We also wanted to bring an event to Tupper Lake that would celebrate the beauty of the area and everything that goes with a race like this.

An example of the dedication can be seen in the fact that Ironman certification came in the second year.

After all, not every area can boast the mountain stream-fed lake, uncluttered bike routes, and sufficient road miles that Tupper Lake could offer any level of triathlon enthusiast. We also can come up with over 400 locals showing up to support the athletes, who range from school age to folks in their seventies. Organizers regard the volunteers, along with the entire Tupper Lake community, to be the the heart of this event.

Getting ready

For those traveling to Tupper Lake for the event, knowing a little bit about the course can help. Be aware that our unique Adirondack geography might be difficult to duplicate elsewhere.

Here's the swimming course, in Raquette Pond:

If you don't have a handy lake, practicing in the pool might require a bit of mental and physical adjustment come race day. New open water swimmers can be a little thrown by the different environment. Instead of the controlled space and "elbow room" of the pool, swimming in a large lake, with a lot of other people of varying open water abilities, can be daunting. The average temperature of the water is between 68 and 72 degrees.

Just as swimming with a bunch of other athletes can be difficult to simulate on a consistent basis, swimming in a lake is always going to be more distracting than the same distance in a pool. A pool asks for lots of flip-turns and this lake asks for only two right angle turns.

There won't be any wall to push off from, either.

Pack swimming is a lot more challenging for humans than for dolphins.

The bike section will be easier to match. But all roads are not the same. In particular, we did not start with smooth and even geography, and even our best efforts in that area can be held back.

One question I get asked a lot by visitors is why they can't just take a straight road from here to there. I have to get out the terrain map and show them there are usually mountains and lakes in the way of this imaginary route. These are difficult objects to move around. Or, move around.

Here's the bike course:

But you also need to know the terrain changes.

There's a lot of up and down fun on the Tinman bike route.

You can't add distance to make up for flat terrain. And, as seen above, we don't have all that much flat terrain.

Lakes are the easy part.

For training, seek out something with the same kind of gear-changing demands. Everyone likes going fast to get up the next incline. That could be a really important skill.

About the stamina

The swim and the bike lead to a really lovely run.

Remember, running "in town" in Tupper Lake is not like most other towns. In our case, with lakes come mountains. The elevation might not be as easily noticed while running as it is on a bike, but we don't bulldoze neighborhoods flapjack-flat before building on them.

Many of our buildings date back to the late 1800s, before bulldozers. Which don't even work that well with a lot of granite boulders a few feet down.

There's some flat there. And there. But yeah; we're all about shapely calves.

This is nothing like a treadmill session at the gym. But of course, that's what everyone likes about it. People exerting themselves in fresh air and sunshine actually perceive less effort. So it's no wonder the glory of going for a run in Tupper Lake might be a brand new experience for you.

We have room for those who like to exert themselves, and the people who want to watch other people exert themselves.

The Tupper Lake Municipal Park has a path along the shores of Raquette Pond where running is flatter, there's a breeze off the water, and a wonderful picnic of barbecued chicken awaits each finalist. This is in addition to the pre-race carb-up at a choice of local restaurants, T-Shirt and souvenir swim cap, carbo-dinner voucher, and two draft beer pints for our competitors who are over 21.

It has been estimated that during an Olympic-length triathlon, a 200-pound male would burn about 550 calories during the .94-mile swim, 1,400 calories during the 24-mile bike, and nearly 1,000 calories during a run​ of 6.2 miles. Let me do some tricky math: that same 200-pound male would burn 702 during a Tinman swim, 3,267 with the bike, and 2,113 for the run, for a total of 6,082 calories total.

Someone who is burning that much in consistent training needs some excellent fuel, and our dining spots are always glad to oblige.

Every athlete, and their fans, need a good night's sleep. Before and after, have a good time exploring the rest of our scenery.

Elevation info courtesy of beyondtransition on and

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