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Locals ready to tackle Ironman distance

Brian Delaney receives encouragement from his wife Karen Delaney in front of their store during last year’s Ironman Lake Placid. (Enterprise file photo — Morgan Ryan)

LAKE PLACID — Twenty-one years running, the annual Ironman race has become a fixture in Lake Placid each summer. And heading into his 21st Ironman in his hometown, Brian Delaney can certainly be considered a fixture in one of the most well-know Ironman triathlons in the world.

On Sunday, Delaney attempt to become one of the few triathletes to reach the finish line in all 21 Ironman races that have taken place in Lake Placid. He’s also part of a sizable group of area residents looking to complete their personal journeys in the grueling 140.6-mile race.

“It’s kind of like, if I’m healthy and everything is going all right, I’m going to do it, and that’s how it is right now,” said Delaney, who owns High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid. “I’m healthy. I can swim — I swam a mile-and-a-half the other day. I can run ever other day, every third day. I know I can bike it, that’s not a problem.”

Delaney said from what he knows, there are two other triathletes who have completed all 20 Ironman Lake Placid races to date.

“It’s just fun, it’s a day off, and it’s kind of cool that I can do it,” Delaney said.

Mel Frazer makes her way through the 26.2-mile run course during the 2014 Ironman Lake Placid. (Enterprise file photo — Morgan Ryan)

The Ironman course includes a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.

Three years ago, Jay Niederbuhl of Saranac Lake had a race he’d rather forget when he attempted the Ironman distance for the first time. A flat tire on the bike ride ultimately led to the end of his attempt to cross the finish line after he pushed too hard, got sick on the run and withdrew. On Sunday, he’s looking for redemption.

Three years later and carrying a lot more experience in the sport of triathlon has Niederbuhl entering the race with a lot more confidence this time around. Although Niederbuhl has yet to complete a full Ironman, he’s been a familiar face and has turned in some fast results in numerous triathlons, including several Tupper Lake Tinman events and both Ironman Lake Placid 70.3s.

“I have to finish it,” Niederbuhl said. “I didn’t do that the first time, and I’ve always intended on coming back and finishing. I do like doing well, but I’m just hoping to finish. What I’ve learned, and I learn it every race, is you can’t go all out on the bike if you want to be able to run. That’s what I really learned, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.

“I plan on going out and taking it easy on the bike ride, and hope to have something left for the run,” he added. “When I had a flat tire, that was discouraging. That upset me then, but now I am over those types of things. I know those things happen and you have to deal with it. Stay calm.”

Sean Davis runs through the village during the 2016 Ironman Lake Placid. (Enterprise file photo — Morgan Ryan)

Mel Frazer is another Lake Placid resident set to tackle Sunday’s Ironman, and she’s already completed the race five times. But this year marks the first time Frazer will be racing as a mom after her daughter, Maddie, who is now 3, was born.

Frazer is hoping to beat her 2004 finish time of 14 hours and eight minutes, which she recorded in her first appearance in the race. However, that result is well off her personal best result clocked in 2014. That year the swim leg was stopped halfway through due to lightning storms. Frazer completed both swim loops before that happened and clocked a 12:00:59 finish, but with time added on, her official result was posted as 12:34.

“It’s kind of funny because I’ve been told now that I’m a mom, I should be faster than I used to be,” Frazer said. “I’m certainly not shooting for my best time. If I did that, it would blow my mind. Post baby, it takes me a lot longer to warm up and a lot longer to recover.

Frazer, a running and nordic ski coach at Lake Placid High School, said she just loves endurance sports.

“Really, I’m doing this because I wanted to get back into the shape I feel like I should be in,” she said. “I really love the endurance part of the Ironman. I think the longer I go, the better I feel. If you saw me after I ran a 5k or a marathon, my face would look exactly the same. I’m not nervous. I think I’m ready.”

Jay Niederbuhl nears the end of the bike portion of the 2017 Ironman Lake Placid 70.3 triathlon. (Enterprise file photo — Morgan Ryan)

Sean Davis, who grew up in Willsboro, will be attempting the Ironman Lake Placid for the third time. He didn’t participate in 2018 after struggling during the run in the event the summer before, and said he’s excited to get going on Sunday.

“I took last year off to regroup knowing I would do the Ironman again,” Davis said. “In 2017, I things didn’t go the way I wanted them to. I didn’t not have a good time out there running. How you do on the bike plays a role in how well you can run, so I’ve gotten myself in better cycling shape. I’ve put in a lot more miles on the bike. I’m more of a runner than anything else, but running after cycling is really, really challenging.”

Davis ran a 3:37:05 marathon in the 2017 IMLP on his way to an overall time of 10:46:31. In 2016 he finished in 10:47:13, with a marathon time of 3:35:32.

“Anything around there, or even better, I’ll be happy,” he said.

Ever since Lake Placid’s Stuart Baird was young, soccer has always been his favorite sport. But on Sunday, the soon-to-be junior at St. Lawrence who is a member of the Saints soccer team, will be calling triathlon his top sport, and even if it’s just for that single day.

Baird will take his first crack at the Ironman’s distance of 140.6 miles. He said being at the finish line during the late hours of last year’s race, along with a family rivalry with his brother Andrew, provided all the inspiration he needed to take up the sport of triathlon.

“It was a surreal experience at the finish line last year,” Baird said. “I was there with my family cheering everybody on, it was amazing, and that’s when I wanted to do it.”

Two years ago, Baird ran his first marathon with the goal of beating the finish time turned in by his older brother Andrew. The younger brother accomplished his goal as a competitor in the annual Lake Placid Marathon, and now, he’s looking to top Andrew one more time. Baird said Andrew finished an Ironman Lake Placid in about 12 hours, and sliding in under that time is what he’s looking for on Sunday.

“A little family-friendly competition has inspired me again,” Stuart Baird said. “I started this about three months ago, and I’ve been training strong. I basically learned to swim this year and I caught on pretty quick. I’m feeling good and healthy.

“The bike is definitely the hardest part for me, so I’m looking forward to getting off my bike and having a good run. I’ll be excited to get the race over with. Soccer will be my favorite sport again on Monday.”

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