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UP CLOSE: Ultra man

Injuries don’t stop this local athlete

July 17, 2014
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer (mlynch@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - On June 1, Bob Tysen took second place in the 55- to 59-year-old class in the Cayuga Trails 50 kilometer trail run in Ithaca.

The 58-year-old Lake Placid resident finished the race in 11 hours and 26 minutes for 99th place.

The result was impressive for Tysen's age but put him in the middle of the pack, as 230 people completed the event. The result was probably overlooked by most people, but that hasn't always been the case. In recent years, Tysen has been slowed by injuries and age, but he has a rich history of success in long-distance events.

Article Photos

Bob Tysen
(News photo — Mike Lynch)

Tysen moved to Lake Placid about a decade ago and works at The Fallen Arch on Main Street, which is owned by his fiancee Gail Joseph. He also works one day a week at Placid Planet Bicycles on Saranac Avenue.

Prior to moving to Lake Placid, Tysen lived in Kingston, Ontario, where he worked as a physical trainer and is a member of the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame for the sports of cycling and skating.

Tysen is a former pro mountain biker, played semi-pro hockey, pro marathon speed skater and holds numerous long-distance running and cycling records in North America.

One of the records he is most proud of is for the 530-mile Race Across America Open East cycling race in Johnstown that he completed in September 1989. That year he set the course record when he raced nonstop for nearly 29 hours at an average speed of 18.57 miles per hour, according to the Schenectady Gazette. The course went through Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and towns and villages throughout the North Country. At the time, the race was a qualifier for the Race Across America cycling competition, which Tysen attempted the next year.

Just 33 years old, Tysen battled with Alex Bekkerman, a Soviet-born nuclear scientist. Bekkerman held a lead at the 450-mile mark, but Tysen passed him with 50 miles to go as he gave in to exhaustion.

After that, Tysen entered the Race Across America the next year, but things didn't go as well.

In 1990, the Race Across America started in Irvine, California and continued 2,930 miles until Savannah, Georgia.

Tysen joined about three dozen other cyclists in an attempt to cross the continent by bike. However, he ran into trouble early in the race when his support crew had to leave him to get gas. Tysen was near Indio, California, in the middle of the desert with no water.

"I'm leading the race," he recalled, "(and) they ran out of gas. Left me in the desert that was 114 degrees, with no water, nothing for over an hour. When they found me, I was completely dehydrated. I ended up in the hospital on double intravenous."

Tysen spent seven hours in the hospital and dropped from first place to second to last. Although his doctor recommended that he take two weeks off and recover, Tysen jumped back on his bike and began catching up to the other riders, passing them along the way. Eventually, he got to seventh place.

Then 1,952 miles into his race, his support crew made him drop out because they were concerned a neck injury from riding bent over was causing him long-term damage.

It wasn't the first time Tysen encountered difficulties because of an injury. He's has made a history of battling through and overcoming them.

When Tysen was in his 20s in the 1970s and living in Colorado, he was hit by a car while riding his bike. The injuries from the accident were so severe that he would require multiple knee surgeries, and he wasn't be able to run for about two years.

But Tysen didn't give up during that time. Instead, he spent hours powerwalking until he built up the strength to run again. At the time, he was playing semi-pro hockey, but he had to give that up, so he began to focus on marathon skating in the winter and running and cycling in the warmer months.

During the following years, one of Tysen's big accomplishments was setting the course record for the 200-mile trail run on the Rideau Trail from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario, in 1983. He finished that race in 83 hours and 31 minutes. To this day, it is still the fastest known time for completing the trail.

"I had to swim across a beaver dam with a 10-pound pack on," he said.

After the race, Tysen went to Baffin Island, Canada, in the arctic to compete in a 20-mile race during the Midnight Sun Marathon Races.

"In mile nine, I just got done a 2,000-foot climb, and I'm in the lead," he said. "I've got a pickup truck with cameras and everything (in front of me). I'm in the lead and my foot snaps. I run 11 miles with a broken foot because I'm leading. I win the race. I set a course record. I was running 6-minute miles."

The foot injury came after it had been hit twice in one baseball game in Nova Scotia in the days leading up to the race.

After that injury, Tysen really started focusing on skating and worked his way onto the pro marathon skating circuit. He would later go on to become a six-time U.S. masters marathon speed skating champion. In fact, he never lost a marathon, winning 33 consecutive races, according to the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame.

In the winter of 2003-2004, he ended his career by winning the last six ice marathons of the year, over competitors of all ages. As an inline skater, Tysen won the Ontario Cup title in 2002. The next year he was third overall in the Canada Cup. Tysen won the National Off-Road Bicycle world mountain bike championship in 1987.

For about 16 years, until Tysen moved to Lake Placid in 2005, he worked as a personal trainer in Kingston, Ontario. He trained NHL players in their off-season, working for clients of the legendary Bobby Orr, who was a player agent. Those he trained included Kirk Muller, a former captain for the Montreal Canadians.

Tysen said he moved to Lake Placid wanting to lead a more relaxing yet active lifestyle. He had gotten divorced in Kingston, Ontario, and was tired of working long days as a personal trainer.

To keep himself occupied, he continues to compete in cycling and running events, despite his foot and knee injuries that cause him to walk with a limp. He gave up skating at age 49 due to another knee injury.

This weekend, he plans to compete in the 50k Wakely Dam Ultra in the Central Adirondacks. He said he just does these types of events for fun now and doesn t worry about if he's going to win.

"People see me running around (Mirror Lake) at minus-30, and they think I'm some old guy that likes to run, but I've got a history," he said.

 
 

 

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