Embark photo — Lou Reuter
Nancy Battaglia has been competing in the mini-tris since the first year in 1983.
 
Embark photo — Mike Lynch
Brian Delaney offers some encouragement to participants while standing on a chair on the beach.
 
Embark photo — Mike Lynch
Swimmers start the first leg of the mini-triathlon, making their way through Mirror Lake.
 
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LAKE PLACID — Anyone who happens by the Mirror Lake Beach area on a Monday evening during the summer has likely heard Brian Delaney’s voice booming through a megaphone.

“Stay to the right and slow down,” he says. “Safety’s my biggest concern.”

He is addressing a group of people, clad in yellow swim caps, huddled together, waist-deep in the chilly water of Mirror Lake. They are nervously awaiting the starting signal for the Monday night mini-triathlon series, sponsored by High Peaks Cyclery. Delaney explains the rules and regulations of the race, and a minute later there’s splashing and flailing arms and legs as swimmers make a beeline for the orange buoy 200 yards out.

The mini-tris (400-yard swim, 12-mile bike, 3-mile run) have been a staple of summertime in Lake Placid since 1983. This year’s competition series, which began on June 22, marks the 26th season Delaney has hosted the events.

“The Ironman had just happened in Hawaii and we were all like ‘Oh, that’s crazy. We have to do just a shorter version.’ And we thought of a weekly series,” he said.

The early 80s were the first days of triathlon race sponsorship. So Delaney called up Smartfood and asked if they would like to sponsor the series. In response they sent a tractor trailer load of popcorn.

“Every Monday I would hand out 100 bags of Smartfood,” Delaney said. “People would come around and eat some Smartfood and watch the race.”

The series today still has that small-community-event atmosphere. Friends come to cheer on friends, parents and kids compete on a relay team together, visitors walking around Mirror Lake stop to shout a few words of encouragement, and residents with homes along the course set up lawn chairs in their yards and clap for the passing athletes.

If you are passing by the beach area on a summer Monday, another sound you’re likely familiar with is the ringing bicycle bell announcing the arrival of Lake Placid photographer Nancie Battaglia to the transition area. She has been competing in the mini-tris every year since 1983.

“I look at it as an hour and a half of exercise, 90 minutes or less in motion,” she said. “When you’re done, you feel good.”

Battaglia is a committed competitor. Some years she’s had perfect attendance, racing in every mini-tri of the season. But Battaglia isn’t a stellar athlete; she describes herself as just the average Joe. That’s part of the fun of the mini-tri, she said. Athletes of all fitness levels can do it.

“You get the high-end uber-athlete and the mini-tri is their cool down exercise of the day, and then you get the person who is swallowing hard and going, ‘Gulp. Can I do this?’” she said.

For those too timid to take on the whole race by themselves, competing as a team in a relay is also popular. Routinely, lone swimmers or runners show up, hoping a team is in need of a third member. They might meet the other two-thirds of their team for the first time just 20 minutes before the race starts.

Delaney said the race attracts between 50 and 80 competitors each week. But that number has been increasing in recent years with the growing popularity of triathlons and the Ironman. As August wanes and the daylight fades earlier, along with the warmth, the start time is moved up from 6:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“Once or twice we had 100 people, and sometimes we get that magical night where everybody shows up and we have 130,” he said.

Battaglia’s advice to would-be athletes is simple: Just have fun and don’t worry about what other competitors are doing.

“Just think: It’s you and your body,” she said. “Just do it and pace yourself. It will be over in a few hours, and the next day, you’ll feel pretty good.”