2004 Ironman Lake Placid
Story and photos by Kristen McFarland
ISSUE #24, Fall 2004 – Much was made of Simon Lessing moving up to the Ironman distance of racing in Lake Placid, but he himself would have none of it. He stressed that he had competed along side Mark Allen in the long distance race in Nice (about a six hour race with a 30K run) a couple of times, but also admitted that it had been back in ’94 and ’95. But, he added, “I feel substantially stronger than I did back then.”
“For me this will be my 19th or 20th season of triathlon,” he said before the race. “I think, for me, it’s almost a natural progression. I spent so many years doing short distance races and I pretty much decided I had to make a decision at the beginning of this year whether I wanted to pursue Olympic aspirations or whether I wanted to try something completely different,” said the four-time Olympic-distance world champion. “The honest truth is that I was sick and tired of the style of short distance racing and the inconsistency of it.”
Lessing is one of the best swimmers in the sport, and took the lead in the swim right from the beginning. His long arms and incredible stroke efficiency were visible all the way from the shore as the spectators could see that he was taking almost a third less strokes than his pursuers behind him. When he came out of the water after the first lap, he was already a minute ahead of the rest. His final swim split was an amazing 47:08.
Once on the bike he tried to hang back a bit to let second-place Luke Bell catch up so they could ride together, but he kept dropping Bell on the hills. “I waited for him once or twice and I gather that I was climbing better. Maybe that’s the benefit of living in Boulder.” He finally just went ahead on his own, though, drawing on his training to know what kind of speed he could expect out of himself. “At the end of the day you have to go your own pace,” he said afterwards. Still, having a huge lead took its toll as well. It was a “little lonely out there, I must say. Hours of racing on your own is tough.”
Lessing has been living in Boulder for a few years with his wife and daughter (and has a new baby as well) and has been training with Dave Scott, who he credited for preparing him to race. “It’s been very beneficial because he understands this distance so well.” He especially noted Dave’s help with his in-race nutrition and strength conditioning.
His run split of 2:46:39 broke Ryan Bolton’s course record of 2:49 set in 2002 when he won the race. With that, Lessing smashed the full course record of 8:33:11 by ten minutes. “I’m pretty happy with my race, all things considered. I struggled a bit on the last half of the run, but then again, I think most people struggle on the last half of the run,” he laughed.
Luchinske Top American
Considering how the trip to Lake Placid went, Tim Luchinske of Lafayette had a great race. It took him and his wife, Jo (whose name is on his jersey along side his other sponsors), 48 hours to get there because of cancelled flights. To top that off, the airline lost his luggage and bike, and only got it to him right before the bike check in.
His 2:52:50 marathon split was the third best of the day and the consistent, steady pace led him into 6th and the top placing American. With that finish he qualified for the World Championships. “I’m happy to go to Kona,” he sighed.