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Bobby Nystrom, former New York Islander, runs first Ironman at age 61

How does competing in a 140.6-mile Ironman compare

How does competing in a 140.6-mile Ironman compare with playing an intense game of professional hockey? “Mr. Islander” Bobby Nystrom knows, recently competing in his first Ironman at age 61. Photo Credit: Coyne Public Relations

How does competing in a 140.6-mile Ironman compare with playing an intense game of professional hockey? “Mr. Islander” Bobby Nystrom knows.

“It’s totally different,” he said. “Hockey is a number of short bursts, and it’s a little more anaerobic as compared to the Ironman where you try to stay below your anaerobic level. The Ironman is a test of will and body, and is much harder than a single hockey game.”

The 61-year-old -- who played for the Islanders from 1972-86 and helped boost the team to four Stanley Cups -- completed his first full-distance Ironman on Sept. 20 in Maryland. He finished the course in 13 hours, 50 minutes and 36 seconds (swim 1:39:14; bike 6:39:35; run 5:05:24).

“I felt pretty good during the race but a little uneasy in the swimming portion -- it was pretty crowded and very difficult to get into a smooth rhythm,” Nystrom said. “I started to cramp a little bit at mile 18 on the marathon but was able to eat some broth, and I felt pretty good for the rest of the run. The biking was the easiest part, and the beauty of the course in Maryland made it that much better.”

As five Long Islanders set their sights on completing the 2014 GoPro Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on Saturday,  Nystrom offered his words of encouragement to Liz Fernandez, 35, of Rockville Centre; Steven Gartenstein, 50, of Hewlett Harbor; Stefan Judex, 46, of Port Jefferson; Roberta Leventhal, 63, of East Hills; and Dominick Oliviero, 49, of Massapequa.

“I wish them the very best of luck and to do their very best,” said Nystrom, in reference to the Long Islanders’ quest to complete the world championship’s 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile marathon. “If they do, they should be totally satisfied.”

Note: Follow Newsday.com from Oct. 8-Oct. 12 for up-to-date coverage, including a live feed -- Saturday -- from the race in Hawaii. In addition, the 2014 Ironman World Championship can be viewed on www.ironman.com. NBC will air the event special on Saturday, November 15 at 1:30pm EST.

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