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Bears force woman off course at Toughman Triathlon

Last women's finisher at Ironman Wisconsin in 2013 makes another dramatic finish

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

Susan Felicissimo is no stranger to dramatic finishes, but even she admits getting across the line at yesterday’s USA Triathlon National Long Course Duathlon Championships was by far her most rewarding one. Felicissimo was the final runner on the course and as she embarked on the final out-and-back section she and Jim Irvine, who was trailing the final athlete on his mountain bike, were told there were three bears up ahead.

“We were coming down the dirt road and this car came by and said ‘there are three bears ahead, and they are really big,'” Felicissimo said. “Then we had to call the police. They were crossing the road back and forth. They were huge.”

Susan Felicissimo and Jim Irvine

The police then followed them along the path to ensure the bears wouldn’t follow them along the trail. The only problem was that now Felicissimo wouldn’t complete the entire 13.1 mile half-marathon course. She added the extra 1.6 miles on the other side of the lake to ensure she did the full distance, then ran through the line alongside an escort of Kings Point cadets to the swing “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.”

Related: Black Bear hangs out above oblivious triathletes at B.C. triathlon

In 2013, her first season of racing, Felicissimo (who was then Susan McNamee) competed at Ironman Wisconsin. She made the swim cut off by just 15 seconds, then made it across the finish line with just 75 seconds to spare, enjoying the cheers of the huge crowd on hand to celebrate her first Ironman finish.

“But this finish was more fun,” she said. “The bear, the music, all those guys lining up to join me.”

Felicissimo completed the race in 7:50:36 to win the women’s 70 to 74 age group and will hopefully qualify for a spot on the national team which will compete at the World Multisport Championships next year in Ibiza, Spain.