Competing in the eastern United States for the first time, Canadian Heather Wurtele was the triathlete setting a record, turning in the fastest women's finish in the 13-year history of the Ironman Lake Placid to win the pro title.
Meanwhile, TJ Tollakson was just 10 seconds shy of the men's pro bike record en route to claiming his first Ironman championship. He was the second swimmer out of the water and took the lead for good on the bike leg to finish with a winning time of 8 hours, 25 minutes and 15 seconds.
"I've had five trips to the Ironman podium," said Tollakson. "I have three seconds and two thirds, I figured it's about time I won one. My coach and I really geared up for this race. Winning an Ironman is amazing, even more than I thought it would be."
Wurtele put down the fastest times in all three legs of the women's race to set a new finish record of 9:19:03. The triumph marked the second Ironman title in two months for Wurtele, who also won Utah's Ironman St. George. The 32-year-old won by more than a 36-minute margin in Utah, and pulled away in Lake Placid to top her next closest rival by more than 15 minutes.
"You can't really count on winning until you cross the finish line, but over the last two miles, I just soaked in the atmosphere," Wurtele said. "The crowd was so enthusiastic. The last two miles, I saw lots of smiles."
Following the win, Wurtele said she's setting her sights firmly on the Ironman World Championship in October in Hawaii.
"I feel the best is definitely going to come for me. I definitely feel like I'm a contender in the World Championships," said Wurtele, who also finished ninth overall Sunday. "You get to the point when it feels like you can perform more and more consistently in each race, but I've been fortunate enough that I haven't had to battle it out to the last mile."
Although Wurtele won by a large margin, she was in a battle for a while with Tine Deckers of Belgium, who finished runner-up in 9:34:41. The champion was only 11 seconds ahead of Deckers after the swim, but then steadily began to outdistance herself from the rest of the field on the bike leg. American Tyler Stewart placed third for the women, finishing in 9:38:09. Jackie Arendt was fourth and Jacqui Gordon finished fifth to round out the women's top five.
"I put Lake Placid on my calender in the winter," Wurtele said. "Lake Placid is one of the most well-known Ironman events, and the course here really suits me. It's hilly and it's challenging."
The men's pro division saw a tighter battle for the top spot, as Tollakson and Hoffman stayed close during much of the race. But in his attempt at a second-straight Ironman Lake Placid win, Hoffman couldn't keep the pace with Tollakson, who was second out of the water in 50:41, and then finished the bike in 4:33:33, which was just shy of the race's 10-year-old record for that leg. Tollakson then turned in a 2:56:45 result on the marathon to seal the deal. Hoffman, who was just one minute off the bike record, finished runner-up in 8:33:29, which was almost six minutes faster than his winning 2010 Ironman Lake Placid effort.
"I've been in 10 Ironman races, and this was the first day I could put together a solid swim, bike and run," Tollakson said. "That's what it takes to win an Ironman. This was a beautiful course. It's one of the most picturesque and scenic courses, and it has what could be the cleanest lake in Ironman. There are good hills on the bike and run, and it's very fair for everyone. Today, things couldn't have gone any better. I've been dreaming of this day since my first Ironman."
In his fourth appearance in Lake Placid, Jason Shortis of Australia placed third, finishing in 8:47:18. After dropping out of the race in his last attempt last year, Shortis wound up with taking third place for the third time in the Olympic Village. Shortis clinched his podium finish with the fastest marathon time of the race, a 2:50:24.
"I felt a little tired today. I felt a little flat," he said. "I would have liked to have been a little closer to the guys in front. I was 25 minutes back on the bike, and I tried to give it a go on the run. But TJ ran great and Ben was too tough to catch. The only way I could have caught Ben was if he fell over. Finishing in third place three times; I thought a win would have been nice."
Eduardo Sturla of Brazil finished fourth in 9:04:16 and Daniel Bretscher placed fifth in 9:07:05 to round out the men's pro division top five.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Canada’s Heather Wurtele crosses the finish line at the Olympic Speedskating Oval in record time to capture the women’s professional title in the Ironman Lake Placid on Sunday, July 24.