Posted On:
Sunday, August 1, 2021
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Athlete Race Recap: 2021 IRONMAN Lake Placid

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IRONMAN is back!  And boy, am I happy that it is. :)

This year, five Full Circle Endurance athletes took on the beast of a race that is IRONMAN Lake Placid: Scott Heintzelman, Len Matyasik, Tami Stone, Michelle Jeitler, and Lisa Crockford.

Scott Heintzelman

Scott running to the finish line of IRONMAN Lake Placid.

Scott Heintzelman raced IRONMAN Lake Placid for the third time, and this was his sixth IRONMAN overall.  He has a long-range goal to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championship via the Legacy Program.  This program requires 12 IRONMAN finishes, and then the athlete can earn a coveted spot to the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i. 

As you can imagine, this is a VERY BIG goal that takes a VERY LONG time to complete.  Scott has been working towards it for over three years now.  Long plays like this are tough and require a lot of tenacity, something that Scott has in spades.

This year’s race in Lake Placid tested Scott physically and mentally, but as I reminded him out on the run course: This is EXACTLY why athletes choose to take on IRONMAN events.  The 140.6-mile distance requires you to bare out the four corners of your soul and see what you are really made of.  It requires you to dig deep and do extremely hard things.

And that’s what Scott did this past Sunday, locking in his sixth IRONMAN finish, which means he’s exactly halfway to his long-term goal.

I am so proud of Scott for persevering through a tough day and for becoming an IRONMAN for the SIXTH time!!

Congratulations, Scott!!  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!

Len Matyasik

Len running to the finish line of IRONMAN Lake Placid.

After years and years of coaching countless athletes to strong triathlon finishes and after cheering on so many friends at long-course triathlon events, this past Sunday, it was Len Matyasik’s turn to become an IRONMAN.

Len’s DNA is wired to help others, so focusing on his own training and race might actually have been the hardest part of IRONMAN training for him.  Nevertheless, I am so, SO happy to say that he did focus on himself and earned himself a ROCKING day in Lake Placid!!

Len surpassed a lot of his own expectations for the day (though his coach may or may not have known just how awesome he’d do and was pretty darn close to spot-on with her time predictions for his race…).  He truly enjoyed the entirety of his experience at IRONMAN Lake Placid.  There isn’t anything more one can hope for when they reach race day after a long path to get to their goal.

It’s always wonderful to see athletes be successful, but there is something special about seeing someone be successful after they have given of themselves to help others reach their goals.  I am so proud of Len for who he is as a person and for what he accomplished this weekend in Lake Placid.  He’s an incredible athlete, but he’s an even better friend.

Len Matyasik, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!

Tami Stone

Tami and I hug at the finish line of IRONMAN Lake Placid.

Two years ago, I was coaching Tami Stone when she took on IRONMAN Lake Placid.  She missed the bike course cutoff by six seconds.

No, that’s not a typo.  SIX SECONDS prevented Tami from becoming an IRONMAN.  IRONMAN-branded events have VERY strict time limits, and unfortunately, Tami was JUST over one of them.

To say that we were annoyed by this is the understatement of the century.

For the last two years, #sixeffingseconds has been our mantra.  It has kept Tami going through the toughest of workouts (her coach was going to MAKE SURE this didn’t happen again ;) ).  It kept us going when the 2020 IRONMAN Lake Placid was cancelled, delaying our re-do revenge race by another year.  It lit a fire in our hearts to make sure we did all we could to see this goal fully realized.

This year, Tami came back to Lake Placid stronger and more determined than ever.  Completely randomly and by chance, she was assigned the EXACT SAME bib number at Athlete Check-In that she wore in 2019.  The Universe was clearly telling us that this was a true do-over.

This past Sunday, Tami cruised off of the bike course and into Transition 2 with WAY MORE than six seconds to spare.  SHE CRUSHED IT.  The joy we felt as she stepped out onto the run course was indescribable.

She danced her way through the run course, and a little over five hours after she hopped off of her bike, Tami blazed a trail through the finish line of IRONMAN Lake Placid, FINALLY officially becoming an IRONMAN after three years of relentlessly pursuing this goal.

To say that we are excited about this is the understatement of the century.

I have learned so much by watching Tami these last three years.  She conducts herself with grace and humility.  She is kind and generous.  She is determined and strong.  And now, she is an IRONMAN.

TAMI STONE, YOU ARE (finally) AN IRONMAN!!

Michelle Jeitler

Michelle with her new best friend for life, Heather Jackson.

In 2016, Michelle Jeitler raced at IRONMAN Lake Placid and was unable to get to the run.  She got a DNF (Did Not Finish) on the bike course.

Fast forward three years, and Michelle was ready to seek her revenge at IRONMAN Lake Placid.  She had gone to IRONMAN Maryland and become an IRONMAN, but still felt she had unfinished business in Lake Placid.  So, toward Lake Placid we went.

When the 2020 IRONMAN Lake Placid was cancelled, Michelle decided that she would seek her revenge in 2021.  So this year, after five years, she toed the water in Mirror Lake and took on IRONMAN Lake Placid.

Michelle had an AMAZING swim - nailing a PR for the discipline.  She really rocked the bike course, and finally made it onto the run.  The joy we felt when she got to head out for the marathon was UNREAL.

However, IRONMAN races are tough, and this year’s IRONMAN Lake Placid was no exception for Michelle.  Her stomach started to feel off at the end of the bike, and by the time she started the marathon, she was throwing up regularly.  We talked about how she could manage this and persevere to get her IRONMAN finish, and she set forth on the marathon course with a revised nutrition/hydration plan.  She executed this well, but her body was so very depleted.  She was forced to walk most of the marathon.

Fast forward to 11:30 p.m.: Michelle was 22 minutes away from the 17-hour cutoff for IRONMAN with 1.6 miles to go before the finish line.  Her pace at that time was going to make her three minutes over the total time allowed for the race.  She could hear the roar of the crowds at the finish line; she just had to get there.

With the help of some of her friends and teammates, she made up two minutes and nineteen seconds of those three minutes.  She turned onto Main Street in Lake Placid, and saw the flashing lights of the finish line.

Professional triathlete Heather Jackson (who had finished second overall in the race) was there to greet Michelle and run with her into the finish line.  At 17:00:41, Michelle crossed the finish line of IRONMAN Lake Placid, finally completing the 140.6 mile she had set out to conquer five years earlier.

Michelle’s time of 17:00:41 does mean that she has an “official” DNF (Did Not Finish) for this year’s IRONMAN Lake Placid.  Yes, those 41 measly little seconds change her result from an official finish to an unofficial one.  However, in the eternal words of my friend Yvonne Brown, I truly believe that this DNF stands for “Did Not Fail.”

I watched Michelle as she dug deep within her soul to give her absolute strongest and best effort to get to that finish line.  I watched her make up 2:19 over the course of 22 minutes, which is a remarkable feat.  I watched her not give up - for anything.

I am so, so proud of Michelle.  Her day was SEVENTEEN hours long.  She relentlessly pursued her goal and kept moving forward for SEVENTEEN hours.  This is nothing short of incredible.

Please join me in congratulating Michelle on a marvelous feat of endurance and grit.

Lisa Crockford

Lisa and I at the “Become One” Tent at Bike Check-In.

As you’ve heard me discuss in each of the above recaps about IRONMAN Lake Placid, IRONMAN races are HARD.  Specifically, IRONMAN Lake Placid is VERY HARD.  It is a beast of a course that pushes athletes who choose to take it on to their limits. 

Lisa Crockford has attempted to finish IRONMAN Lake Placid three times now, her most recent attempt being on Sunday.  All three times, she has not made it off of the bike course and onto the run.

Yes, my friends, her official result from the 2021 IRONMAN Lake Placid is a DNF.  However, this does not mean that she failed. 

For each and every minute that Lisa was out on that race course, she pushed herself to her limit.  She was significantly faster on the bike course than she was the last time she attempted this race.  Her handling skills are FAR superior to what they used to be (she hit a maximum speed of 46 mph on the Keene Descent, which is incredibly impressive considering Lisa's physical size (I tower over her ;) )).  She has learned SO much about herself throughout this process, and it’s been my honor to be alongside her for these last two years.

In the endurance sports world, we talk a lot about the victories and the “photo finish” moments.  However, a huge part of endurance sports is the very real work - and disappointment - that happens enroute to a goal.

It’s important to talk about Lisa’s race not only to celebrate how hard she worked and how far she’s come, but to provide context (and possibly hope) for other athletes that are in a similar situation to her.  There are PLENTY of athletes out there who are seeking an IRONMAN finish (or any endurance goal, for that matter) who have not been able to be successful yet.  The road to IRONMAN is truly more than 140.6 miles long, and for some athletes, it is MANY YEARS long.  

I truly believe that with enough time and training, ANYONE can become an IRONMAN.  So, if you are feeling like your road to IRONMAN looks very long, do not despair.  Look to Lisa.  She has been pursuing the goal of becoming an IRONMAN for over four years now, and she keeps chipping away, focusing on the little wins, knowing that one day, they will add up to THE win for her.

As a cherry on top of IRONMAN Sunday (see what I did there?), Lisa made sure she was at the finish line when Tami Stone finished IRONMAN Lake Placid.  She then came out onto the run course at 11:30 p.m. to run Michelle Jeitler into the finish line and to help motivate her to reach her goal.  Yes, on a day when she experienced massive personal disappointment and was physically very tired from her own race, she put it aside to celebrate the accomplishments of her teammates and friends and to support them.  How many of us can say that we would have done the same?

Lisa is an athlete and human we can all learn a lot from.  I know I have.  I am so, so proud of my friend (and athlete!) for what she did this weekend.  The fact that her result is a DNF does not change that.  We are NOT defined by our finish results or the time on a clock.  We are defined by our character, our actions, and our integrity.  Don’t ever forget that, my friends.

Today, I ask you to join me in celebrating Lisa and all that she did achieve on Sunday.  We’re all better for knowing you, Lisa!! :)

About

Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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