Kent Lemme retains Ironman title at Josh Billings RunAground

Kent Lemme is the Ironman champion and finished with a new record at the Josh.
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LENOX — Kent Lemme almost ran into a problem one-third of the way through the 41st annual Great Josh Billings RunAground. He didn't have his life jacket for the canoe leg of the triathlon.

His wife Shiobbean got the life jacket to the Ironman competitor. Without it, he would have been disqualified. With it, he won his third straight title.

"It's wonderful," said Lemme. "Any time you can get a year older and get faster at anything, it's remarkable."

Lemme, 50, broke his Josh kayak Ironman record with his win. Lemme's winning time of 2 hours, 31 minutes and 1 second was better than his 2:32:44 in 2016, and that set a record.

A year ago, Lemme finished fifth overall. On Sunday, he was fourth — and remarkably only 16:51 behind the Allen Heights Veterinary team that set a record winning the team championship.

Josh Flanagan, who was second to Lemme last year, finished there again in 2017. Flanagan's Josh time was 2:38:22, and he was 14th overall. Flanagan had beaten Lemme back in 2012. But it was the third straight September where Lemme and Flanagan finished 1-2 in the Ironman kayak competition.

Mark Trahan was third (26th overall) in 2:46:24, and Adam Hinds was fourth (28th overall) in 2:46:58.

"Somebody asked me when I was going to win the thing overall," Lemme said with a laugh. "You should have asked me that 15 or 20 years ago. It isn't going to happen at 50."

While cycling leaders Josh Lipka and Will Dugan broke away from the field in their two-person battle, Lemme was near the front of the first larger group of riders. But as he transferred from two wheels to the Stockbridge Bowl still shaded in fog, he had to wait momentarily for his life jacket.

"Josh Flanagan went by me, and I knew he was my main competition, so I slowly worked to climb back on to his boat," said Lemme. "When I got there, I just totally relaxed and let him do all the work."

The defending champion took command of the race on the pavement between Camp Mah-Kee-Nac and Tanglewood. Once the fog broke and the sun came out, the temperatures rose.

"I generally don't mind the heat, but cramping has been an issue for me the last few years," he said. "I could feel it starting again, so I was trying to relax.

"On the run, I was just trying to keep everything relaxed to keep from cramping. There were a couple of times when I felt like the cramps were starting to come in."

The cramps stayed away and Lemme recorded his win.

The fourth Ironman to cross the finish line at Tanglewood was a familiar face in a less-than-familiar place.

Hinds, a Democrat from Pittsfield, serves as Berkshire County's representative to the Massachusetts Senate.

"It's my third time. I love it," said Hinds. "It's a big part of community and everyone rallying together, no matter what your age, size or ability. It's great.

"Moreover, I need the motivation to carve out a little time each day for me."

The response of most Ironpeople, and most competitors who do more than one leg of the Josh is that running can be "brutal." That was how Hinds felt at the end.

"I was happy with my bike, reasonably happy with my paddle," said Hinds. "That run, I need to work on, that's for sure."

Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


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