LENOX —New course. New boat. Same result.
The foursome that make up the Allen Heights Veterinary team won their third consecutive Josh Billings RunAground Sunday. Cyclist Josh Lipka, paddlers Tom Keefe and Ben Pigott along with runner Steve Monsulick finished the 42nd edition of the triathlon in 2 hours, 17 minutes, 8 seconds.
"It's exciting," Monsulick said after crossing the finish line. "Josh, Ben and Tom, they all did an awesome job. Sometimes, I feel like I just get all the glory while they put in all the work.
"It's a good year."
The Allen Heights foursome competed with a kayak last year, but went to a canoe in 2018.
"Something new, something different," Keefe said, when he was asked why he and Pigott went back to the canoe. "That's how the race started."
The Allen Heights team has lost only once — in 2015 — since 2010. In 2015, Allen Heights was a mixed team and finished second.
Josh Itch, a team with cyclist Brian Rabuse, paddlers Sue Purdy and Kurt Kuehnel, and runner Stephen Foley originally finished third. They were awarded second place when the team of Beauceron from Quebec was disqualified. Beauceron's cyclist, Alexandre Mathieu, had arrived at the Richmond Pond boat ramp in fourth place, and had the team in good position. But the team's kayak was 18 inches wide, and Josh rules require double kayaks to be 22 inches wide.
After the disqualification, Josh Itch moved up and and the Boss's Mainly Massive Men was third.
Kent Lemme earned his fourth consecutive Ironman championship, and his third straight top-five overall finish. Joanna Wang was the Ironwoman champion, and she finished 57th overall.
Because of algae blooms, the Stockbridge Bowl was ruled out for the paddling leg of the triathlon. The entire race had to be re-routed.
The new cycling leg was 23.8 miles into the boat ramp at Richmond Pond. Paddlers had to run one-third of a mile to the beach where the paddling leg began. Canoeists, kayakers and paddle boarders went 2 1/2 times around the pond before handing off to the runners. The running leg was 6.5 miles and followed a different course, but the finish was still at Tanglewood's main gate.
"I did [the cycling leg] Saturday," Lipka said before the start of the race. "For me, definitely. I always check out the course. There's this one tight turn on the dirt road with about a quarter-mile to go. With a big group, it could be kind of sketchy.
"The road is in really good condition. It feels like you're on pavement."
Lipka was the first cyclist to reach the Richmond Pond ramp, nearly two minutes ahead of Cameron Geller and Ironman paddle board competitor Greg Olson.
"Last year, I rode with Will [Dugan], which was nice. The year before, I was able to break away in Alford," said Lipka. "Every other year, I've had people with me. It's harder [to race] by yourself. [Route] 41 isn't as hard as the regular finish. So you put a little extra work in at the beginning, and you don't really pay for it later."
Keefe and Pigott had been used to competing in a racing kayak. This, however, was the first time they had raced in the canoe. In addition, Pigott had never been in a racing canoe until two months ago.
"It's just one of those things that make it more fun and more interesting," said Pigott. "The kayak goes really fast. We mixed it up a little this year to have a little fun. Plus, I figured I'd learn the canoe, and Tom's a great teacher in the canoe.
"It's one of those things. You get in it and you go really hard."
Keefe said he has only paddled on Richmond Pond four times in his life. He and Pigott went out the other day just to get a feel for the water and what it might be like on Sunday.
"I think it helps, yeah, to give you a visual as you plan the race in your head the night before," Keefe said. "I think it's important."
The nearly two-minute cushion Lipka gave his paddlers grew after Keefe and Pigott did their 2 1/2 times around Richmond Pond. Their split in the water was 45:37. That was some four minutes faster than Kuehnel and Purdy managed for the eventual second-place boat.
Keefe ran the third of a mile from the handoff to the water, admitting that he "loved it," because he has also been doing a lot of running.
"We got Steve out first. I think it was quite a bit," Keefe said.
Monsulick did the rest. His time of 1:41:06 for the 6 1/2 miles was the only time under 1:45 from the splits reported for the first 50 finishers.
"It was nice" to have that advantage, Monsulick said. "The course was in good shape. It was a little bit hotter than I thought it would be. It was quite scenic.
"I ran most of it yesterday, so at least I had an idea of what to expect. You never know how you're going to react to racing conditions without racing the course."
Monsulick helped Allen Heights finish about a minute-and-a-half behind last year's record-setting time on the old course. Of course, if the Josh reverts to the previous course next year, their time will stand as the record on the new course.
The Josh Itch team finished in 2:28:50, 11 minutes and 42 seconds behind the champions. The Boss's Mainely Massive Men, consisting of cyclist Andrew Piper, paddlers Kevin Boss and Dave Vandorpe, and runner Lee Brown, was third in 2:29:18.
Lemme had a 2:34:38 and was the first Ironman across the line. His time was good for fifth, about 17 minutes behind the champions. Ben Lawry was the second Ironman to finish, and was 14th overall in 2:40:14. Wang was the first Ironwoman to cross the line at Tanglewood in 2:58:19.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.