LENOX -- It wasn't supposed to be easy this year. The Allen Heights Veterinary Clinic just made it look that way.
"It was a true team effort this year," said Bob Rapant.
The Allen Heights foursome held off a challenge and won its third consecutive Great Josh Billings RunAground on Sunday. The team of cyclist Josh Lipka, canoeists Tom Keefe and Rapant and runner Steve Monsulick finished at Tanglewood in a time of 2 hours, 18 minutes and 1 second. Coming in second was the Pittsfield Health Food Center foursome of cyclist Jeff Elie, kayakers Ben Pigott and Mike Dostal and runner Steve Dowsett. That team, considered a threat to win the title, was three minutes behind the champions.
"In years past, we had some good canoe legs and given Steve some pretty decent leads," said Keefe. "This year was all about Josh and Steve. It was about Bob and I just minimizing the damage from the kayak."
It's the first time one team has won three straight Joshes since the Surf Club finished its near decade-long run of success with wins in 2000-02.
And in each of their three wins, Allen Heights beat the second-place team by three minutes or so.
Taking third was the team of cyclist A.J. Piper, canoeists Kevin Boss and Adam Gelinas and runner Shawn Rumery. Five of the top 10 teams were kayak-based, which included Ironman champion Kent Lemme of Williamstown, who finished ninth overall. Lemme's time was 2:35:23.
Lipka gave his team a nearly three-minute advantage after the cycling leg of the triathlon.
"Josh's race, the best word I have to describe it is amazing," said Keefe. "Josh was the race today. He had a plan and he did exactly what he wanted to do."
Lipka, from Adams, and Watertown's Tim Mitchell were the first two cyclists at the handoff on Route 183. Mitchell covered the 27 miles in 1:01:15 and Lipka came in a minute behind.
Lipka said Mitchell did "most of the work" as the duo pulled away from the pack early-on. The two of them stayed together until Prospect Hill Road in Stockbridge, which is where Mitchell pulled away.
"I hit it super-hard there, and just kind of rolled away," said Mitchell, "and tried to keep a good, steady effort on the way in."
Mitchell, who was part of the Here Comes the Boom team with Mark Peters, Sarah Kalmakis and Glarius Rop, ended up finishing a distant fourth. So that meant Lipka and his teammates had the Pittsfield Health Food Center team on the radar.
"I was hoping to have a chance to have about a minute on the bike," said Lipka. "I have the luxury of having the strongest teammates in the race."
Lipka gave his team's canoe about a three-minute lead over the kayak of Pigott and Dostal. Rapant and Keefe might have wished they had a rear-view mirror, because they kept looking back for the kayak.
"We raced against the kayak in the Chocolate Bowl and that boat is so fast," Keefe said. "It's like racing a road bike vs. a mountain bike on the road."
Monsulick had a 20-second advantage on Dowsett as he took off after the canoe leg. He pulled away, and made quick work of the final six miles.
"I didn't think I could catch him," Dowsett said. "I knew he was a better runner. I didn't see anyone close behind us, so I blew myself up going for it."
Monsulick said it was a perfect day for running and a perfect day to go hard. He did just that.
"The first year I did [the Josh] I was quite a bit behind the first-place team and then the last two years, we've had a nice lead thanks to our talented canoers," said Monsulick. "I was definitely nervous this time."
It turned out that they didn't need to be nervous.
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On Twitter: @howardherman.