By Courtney Lewis
---- — LAKE PLACID —Jennie Hansen spent hours staring at an Ironman Lake Placid poster while trying to make herself better.
She finished second at the 2012 edition of the triathlon in her first year as a professional, and that had her aiming even higher this time
Hansen doesn’t have to imagine what it’s like to win anymore.
The Rochester native chased down leader Carrier Lester during the marathon and won the 2013 Ironman Lake Placid professional women’s title Sunday, finishing the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in 9 hours, 35, minutes, 6 seconds.
“This is completely surreal,” Hansen said. “There’s been a lot of long hours I spent on the trainer in the basement, and I had my Ironman Lake Placid poster from last year on the wall and I would just look at that.”
Andy Potts knew what it was like to win, leading the whole day last year, and he repeated that performance to become the first male to win back-to-back championships in Lake Placid. He slapped hands with fans lining the course before crossing the finish line in 8:43:29.
“I think it feels a little bit better the second time around, for sure,” Potts said. “Anytime you can come into a classic venue like Lake Placid and defend the title is certainly one of the highlights of not just my year but my career.
“Defending is very difficult just because more people have you on their list of people to take down, and you just have a bigger bull’s eye on your back.”
Katy Blakemore of Denver, Colo. was second in the women’s race, about seven minutes behind Hansen. Lester finished third.
Daniel Fontana was Potts’ nearest pursuer for most of the day and took second place in 8:48:29. Ian Mikelson was less than three minutes back in third place.
It was a cool day with occasional rain, and Potts said the conditions were part of the reason his time was about 18 minutes slower than last year. He was first out of the water in a time of 46:48 Sunday and built on his lead throughout the day. He said being in front from the get-go is a position he likes.
“The mentality behind it is here’s a target, if you want to come get me, I’m up here,” the Colorado Springs, Colo. resident said. “And you let them know that you’re in control.
“You talk to anyone at the top of their game, whether they’re playing any sport, a guy who’s really good or a gal who’s really good makes everyone else a little bit uncomfortable. And that was kind of going through my head a little bit out there — ‘Hey, let’s make everyone a little bit uncomfortable and see where the chips fall.’”
Keeseville native Logan Franks was originally slated to be in the pro men’s field but did not race.
After finishing second in Lake Placid last year, Hansen notched another runner-up finish at Ironman Texas in May.
“You finish second a couple of times, and you start thinking about winning one,” she said.
The difference for her this time was the swim. She said her time of 1:03:16 was a personal record and more than six minutes faster than last year’s time, and that set the tone for her day.
As Hansen finished the bike leg, she trailed Lester by about seven minutes and was feeling “rough.” Hansen wasn’t sure if she could reel in the Australian, who was one of the pre-race favorites, but she passed her around the 12.5-mile mark.
And that changed her mind-set a little bit.
“It made me pretty nervous because you know once you’re in first, there’s no where else to go,” Hansen said. “You get to a point where it’s just one mile at a time. You just have to tell yourself, ‘I’ve run six miles a trillion times before; I can get through this one more time.’”
She completed the marathon in 3:05:04.
Fellow pro Hillary Biscay planned to compete in her 62nd Ironman Sunday, but an illness kept her from racing.
Blakemore is in her first year as a pro, and this was just her fourth Ironman. She was overjoyed with what she said was her best race by far.
“I spent all night so nervous. And I realized a few miles into the bike, like, God, I love this,” Blakemore said. “And that was a great discovery.
“It’s nice to be joyful while you’re doing it.”
Email Courtney Lewis: firstname.lastname@example.org