LAKE PLACID - You could call Andy Potts a student of triathlon. And ever since the former All-American college swimmer turned to a career in the sport as a 26-year-old, he's been near the top of the class.
On Sunday, Potts dominated his way to the men's professional title in his first appearance at the Ironman Lake Placid. The 35-year-old resident of Colorado Springs, Colo. started the day off by setting a new swim course record in the race's 14-year history, and led from start to finish to win by more than 21 minutes and claim his third victory in an Ironman race.
Meanwhile, on the women's side, a mother of three who had never competed at the Ironman distance until this year, topped the field as Jessie Donavan won her first championship. Racing in her third Ironman, the 36-year-old from Shelburne, Vt. ate up a deficit after the swim with strong performances on the 112-mile bike leg and marathon run to win by a nine-minute margin.
American professional triathlete Andy Potts celebrates his victory Sunday in the 14th Ironman Lake Placid. The Colorado Springs, Colo. resident set a new swim course record on his way to the triumph.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Potts, who competed in triathlon for the United States at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, turned in the fastest times in all three stages of the race for a winning time of 8 hours and 25 minutes. He kicked off the day with a new swim mark of 45 minutes and 1 second.
Australia's Peter Jacobs, who was runner-up at the 2011 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, settled for another second place Sunday in his first trip to Lake Placid, finishing in 8:56:42. Romain Guillaum of France was third in 9:08:50, and Matthew Russell, a native of Canton now living in Arizona, placed fourth in 9:16:36.
"I have been thinking about this race since last November," Potts said. "I chose it because it's the oldest Ironman in the United States next to Hawaii. This race is really important for the history of our sport in America. Having an American win it was the goal of the day.
COMPLETE RESULTS of the Ironman are in today's print edition of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, available for 50 cents at newspaper boxes and retailers all over the area.
"My career started 10 years ago. This race has been here longer than that," Potts added. "I'm sure happy to put my name on the list of champions here. I put a lot of heart and passion and soul into this sport, and I got a lot of love back today. For me, it's about learning as much as I can about our sport, and learning more about myself as a triathlete."
Jacobs, whose strength in Ironman is the marathon, was just a little more than two minutes behind Potts after the swim, but soon realized that he wasn't going to make up a deficit after struggles on the bike leg knocked him another 20 minutes off the pace. Jacobs dropped back to third heading into the second transition, but thanks to a stronger marathon leg, he worked his way back to second place in the end.
"I wasn't going to beat Andy today," Jacobs said. "In the first (bike) lap I felt really good for the first 30 miles, but when we turned into that headwind, I just went flat. It was the same thing on the second lap. My bike was really terrible today.
"I came here to do an Ironman to validate for Hawaii," Jacobs added. "I've been catching up for the last five weeks since I came over here. I knew I wasn't having a good day, so I said 'don't beat yourself up, save it for Hawaii.'"
The women's top two pro finishers had only raced in two combined Ironman triathlons before Sunday, and both belonged to Donavan, who decided to give the 140.6-mile distance a try after volunteering in Lake Placid a year ago. Despite a runner-up performance in the St. George, Utah Ironman in May, she had no visions of victory in the Olympic Village.
Emerging from the swim in Mirror Lake more than 15 minutes off the top time turned in by Suzanne Serpico, Donavan ate up the gap with the fastest bike result of the day and held the lead throughout the run for a winning finish of 9:47:32.
"I had never done an Ironman when I volunteered here last year," Donavan said. "I told my husband 'I think I can do this.' I didn't even think about winning here, but I'm good on the bike and I'm a good runner. After three hours racing, I tend to get stronger."
"I might have been dead last out of the water, that's how it usually is, but I came out strong on the bike and I took the lead for good," she added. "Literally a year ago, this was a pipe dream for me. I have three kids, I take them to school every day, and I have a full-time job. That's my life. This win, I don't think it's set in. It's pretty unbelievable."
If Donavan was surprised coming out on top, runner-up Jennie Hansen appeared shocked by her performance. As a rookie on the pro triathlon circuit, the Rochester resident was competing in her first Ironman and finished strong with the fastest women's marathon run, a 3:12:25, to claim second place in 9:56:40.
"This is my first Ironman and it was amazing," Hansen said. "I'm at a loss for words. I had no idea what it would even be like in this race. To be able to go out and do this and finish second, I'm pretty shocked."
In her fifth attempt in Lake Placid, New Jersey resident Jacqui Gordon claimed third place in 10:08:28, and Serpico, a 32-year-old from Columbia, Md. finished fourth in 10:14:22.