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Super senior

Tebo in his triathlon prime on the eve of 70th birthday

July 21, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

TUPPER LAKE - Bob Tebo has packed a lot of triathlon racing into a career that started nine years ago. And it's been a pretty amazing run considering the Tupper Lake resident didn't venture into the sport until he was 61.

On Sunday, Tebo will race for the sixth time in the Ironman Lake Placid, and a week later, he'll be celebrating his 70th birthday. A desire to try the Tinman in his hometown inspired Tebo to take up triathlon, and he has experienced some shining and satisfying times along the way.

His career has included a trip to the 2013 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, an appearance in the Olympic distance world championship in Chicago, and in September he'll make it a world championship trifecta by racing in the 70.3 Ironman event in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Article Photos

Bob Tebo emerges from the swim during the 2015 Tupper Lake Tinman triathlon held in his hometown. Tebo will race Sunday in his sixth Ironman Lake Placid.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

"I've been lucky," Tebo said. "Really, when you get to be my age and you're able to keep doing this, you have to count your blessings. It's been nine years now that I've been in triathlons, and I haven't had any injuries - not anything that has hurt my ability to train to do this. The number of people you talk to who are in this sport, there are so many problems with knees, feet, backs. I've been so fortunate not to have any of those problems."

After retiring at age 55 as the director of athletics for the Tupper Lake Central School District, Tebo stayed active and eventually thought he'd attempt the Tinman, a half-Ironman 70.3-mile distance. A month's worth of training during a winter stay in Florida convinced Tebo he could be ready for the race.

"I wanted to do the Tupper Tinman one time," Tebo recalled. "In Florida, I told my wife 'let me see if I can get myself in shape to at least know I could finish it.' A friend lent me a bike - a simple 10-speed - and I knew I needed to lose a little weight. After about a month, I knew I could do it."

Fact Box

Tebo's Ironman Lake Placid resume

2010: 13:03:04

2011: 13:38:53

2012: 14:35:28

2013: 12:17:56

2015: 14:44:54

As a thank you for the bike loaner, Tebo decided to buy his friend some new wheels at the High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid. But when he also left the shop with a new bike of his own, Tebo knew that he had found his sport.

Tebo completed his first Tinman in 2009. His second triathlon was Montreal's Demi Esprite, and the 2010 Lake Placid Ironman was next on the list.

In addition to his world championship trips and five Lake Placid Ironman races, Tebo has been in numerous other events, including the Boston Marathon and the sprint triathlon age group national championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Tebo's top 65-69 age group result in Lake Placid was a runner-up finish in 2013, the summer he qualified for Kona. In Lake Placid that year, he completed the 140.6-mile race in 12 hours, 17 minutes and 56 seconds to finish second behind American William Wren, who crossed the line in just under 11 hours and went on to win the men's 65-69 age group world title in Kona three months later.

The two will both be in the field Sunday but in different age groups, with Tebo racing in the 70-74 group for the first time and Wren finishing his final season in the 65-69 division.

Like most triathletes, Tebo has experienced his ups and downs, and that includes races in Lake Placid.

"In Lake Placid, I shoot for the 13-hour range. I beat that once, and I also haven't come close," he said. "I've had some really good races, some that were OK, and some really bad ones."

Tebo wasn't in the field here a year ago, and the 2015 race wound up being his toughest Ironman Lake Placid.

"I really got sick on the run the last time," he said. "I had a great swim, I had one of my best bikes going, and then I had a flat tire. That just took everything out of me. I sat in the transition for 15 minutes and wondered if I wanted to continue on and do a marathon. I decided I just had to get through the run. My family was there."

If Tebo could have predicted his age-group win this April in the Haines City, Florida 70.3 to qualify for the upcoming World Championship, he may not have signed up for Lake Placid this time around. Knowing that a rival who beat him before would be in the field, Tebo figured the best he could do at the Ironman Florida 70.3 was second place. But instead, Tebo made up for lost time on the run to win and earn a trip to Chattanooga. And since he was already signed up for Lake Placid, Tebo said skipping the race hadn't really crossed his mind.

"When I registered (for Lake Placid) last year, that was my thought. But then I won that race and it was really unexpected.," Tebo said. "I just I kind of thought I was going to end up second and I was OK with that. I knew the 70.3 world championship was in the U.S. this year, but I never really thought about qualifying. I had a really good run down there."

After his win in Florida, Tebo headed back north for to start the summer season and went on to post his second-fastest marathon time ever this past May, a 3:53 in the Vermont City Marathon.

"It was probably as good a day as you could have to run a marathon - cool temperatures," he said. "I finished third in my age group, and I was very happy. I ran my fastest marathon when I was 62, the last time I qualified (for Boston)."

Although Tebo has shown he's a competitive triathlete, he said the real draw is just the enjoyment of the sport and everything it has to offer.

"I like the excitement of the whole thing, and just getting out there and challenging myself," Tebo said. "It's exciting. It's exciting to be standing there getting ready to start and looking around at all these people you're doing something with. When I finish, I'm hurting physically, but not mentally. Mentally, it feels really good. I can say 'Hey, I did another one.'

"I'm ready, I'm going to do it Sunday, and this could very well be my last Lake Placid Ironman, although I'm not couunting out one or two more," he continued. "I've never been in a position where I've had to worry about the cutoff time, but the half-Ironman distance is starting to look more sensible. It's taking longer and longer to recover from an Ironman. A 70.3 - I'm still a little shaky but I'm OK. This is definitely not an old person's sport, but I'm fortunate it's gone well for me. I've had fun and hopefully I can keep doing this for a few more years to come."



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