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Team BEAST's Lyle Roberts, Burlington, finished his 13th IronMan World Championship.

The last IronMan?
Roberts becomes only fourth 80-year old to complete Kona.

 

Courtesy: The Hawk Eye, Oct. 20, 2011
By SUSAN DENK
sdenk@thehawkeye.com

Listening to Lyle Roberts talk about his 13th Kona IronMan World Championships, it is difficult to believe his retirement plans.

"Eighty and out," Roberts said after completing his first IronMan as an 80-year old.
But this year's event left Roberts feeling the best he has after the grueling triathlon.

"I felt so good running in. I was smiling," he said.

"I couldn't believe it. And he was standing up straight, he wasn't bent over," interjected Lyle's wife, Betty.

"It was so much fun," Roberts continued. "I didn't go to the medical tent. The other two guys (in his age group) went to the medical tent. I was looking forward to having my recovery drinks, my two Blue Moons."

When he crossed the finish line, Roberts became just the fourth person to complete the event in his 80s. Two of the others, Lew Hollander and Frances Cokan, finished ahead of Roberts. The other is Bob McKee, who accomplished the feat several years ago. Bob Scott, who started this year's race, did not finish.

"There's four of us who have completed it in the 80 plus over the 33 years. Only four. So I'm pretty proud of that," Roberts said.

This year's event did not start smoothly, even before Roberts left for Hawaii. His back began bothering him in the weeks leading up to the event, and the flight was excruciating.
When his children arrived in Kona, they did everything they could to help their dad, stocking up on pain relief patches and pain relievers.

By race day, Roberts' back was not hurting.

So he started the 2.4-mile swim.

"The surf was pretty bad. I followed this girl on a surfboard. I just kind of followed her and finally she saw I was following her and she really stayed with me," Roberts said. "She was so nice. I blew her a kiss when I left."

Roberts completed the swim in 1 hour, 57 minutes, 28 seconds, second behind Scott, who finished the swim in 1:51.48.

Then came the 112-mile bike.

Roberts battled through a faulty derailleur and a miserable headwind.

"You'd shift and it was jumping. That irritated me," said Roberts. "It was very, very windy. You had to pedal going downhill."

Roberts, though, avoided the cramping that normally bothered him.

"My goal, and I guess that was a bad thing, my goal was just to finish at my age. I wasn't thinking about winning the thing and I should have," Roberts said. "I should have been thinking about that.

"I'd have been devastated if I couldn't have made it. I was more concentrating on finishing. The cutoff time is 5:30 on the bike. I get in just a little after 5 o'clock. I was happy about that."

"When we saw him on the bike, we were all surprised," Betty Roberts said. "He smiled and waved at us. Normally when he gets off the bike, he has this frown."

Roberts completed the bike in just over 8 hours.

Roberts dismounted from his bike and realized he had a little over 6 1/2 hours to complete the 26.2 miles.

"I'd run slow, but I'd run with different people," Roberts said. "I met this soldier. We ran together for quite a while. He'd always tell everybody, 'Hey, he's 80 years old!' It was kind of fun.

"Coming back, Betty and the kids were sitting in a restaurant, I think they were surprised because I was running and I felt pretty good."

A stomach ache slowed Roberts down around the 10-mile mark, but he soon felt better. He met up with a young lady and ran with her until she faded. He caught the soldier who had gotten ahead of him, and eventually passed him.

Roberts was the fastest runner in his age group, finishing in 6:37.10. Cokan finished in 6:40.47, Hollander in 6:56.43.

He finished third in 16:51.30. Hollander won in 16:45.55 and Cokan was second in 16:50.43.

"I was kind of disappointed I didn't win. I always wanted to be the world champion but I was close. That's immaterial," Roberts said. "I felt so good. I couldn't believe I could feel that way after 140.6 miles."

Betty Roberts does not believe her husband's claim that this was his final world championship.

"No," she said. "I won't go but he'll probably do it again."

"It's time to do something different," said Roberts, who competed in his first IronMan in 1992. "I kind of hate to quit. I was reading last night, there's two guys 90 years old doing sprint triathlons. It's amazing. I have no trouble doing sprints or Olympic distance.

"It's been a good journey. It's been a fun journey. Met so many people all around the world."