Going Strong: Local becomes oldest competitor ever to finish Lake Placid Ironman

PHOTO PROVIDEDWith fireworks lighting his way, Bob Heins crosses the finish line of the 21st Lake Placid Ironman event. “I usually finish in about 14 and a half hours, but it was windy this year and the bike portion was tough,” Heins said.

PLATTSBURGH — Veteran long-distance athlete Bob Heins became the oldest competitor ever to finish the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon when he crossed the finish line after 140 grueling miles on July 28.

He is 80.


“It was tough,” Heins said.

“My family and a lot of friends were there and they were making a big deal about it, but I just wanted to finish because if I didn’t, I would have felt like a complete jerk.”

Heins finished the 2.5-mile swim, the 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile marathon in 16 hours and 21 minutes at the 21st Lake Placid Ironman event.

“I usually finish in about 14 and a half hours, but it was windy this year and the bike portion was tough,” he said.

“About 350 people dropped out of that race and it was mostly because of the bike. It’s so hilly and the wind makes it brutal.”


Heins, an extreme sport junkie, has been participating in long-distance events for the past 13 years.

The now-retired dentist took up the sport when he was 67 after a frightening experience climbing mountains in Antarctica.

“It was about 80 below and I got some frostbite,” he said.

“Frostbite is not good when you are a dentist.”

So he switched to long-distance events training 15 to 20 hours a week.

Heins can often be seen on Plattsburgh streets pedaling away or running with a weighted back pack.

In his long-distance career, he has completed 18 full triathlons and 22 half-triathlons, which are only 70 miles.

This year, prior to Lake Placid, he competed in half-triathlons in Oceanside, Calif. in April, and in Williamsburg, Va. in May.

“The one in California was incredible,” he said.

“We had to deal with five and six-feet waves.”


The 143-pound former Clinton County legislator and City of Plattsburgh councilor, will continue training for some upcoming events.

He will be headed to Nice, France for an event on Sept. 8, which will feature a portion of the bike leg that was used during the famous Tour de France.

In October, Heins will head to New Zealand for a chance to qualify for the World Championships.

“I really want to qualify,” he said.


Now in his eighth decade of life, Heins says he feels good and still loves competing even though it can be difficult.

“I finished Lake Placid in the dark and toward the end of the run people were lying in the road, throwing up in the bushes and I had to follow a guy who had a head lamp because it was so dark,” he said.

But Heins’ run was brightened by the huge fireworks display that greeted him as he trudged across the finish line to make history.

“I wasn’t trying to chase anyone,” he said.

“I just wanted to finish.”

Email Joe LoTemplio:


Twitter: @jlotemplio

Recommended for you