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Northborough police sergeant addicted to Ironman contests

“My days of running after people are pretty much over,” said the 51-year-old sergeant, who, after 27 years on the force, doesn’t have to be the first one out the door to chase a bad guy.

But if his younger colleagues ever find themselves in a marathon chase, they’d do well to call upon Bruce, the only member of the department who can call himself an Ironman.

“It really does consume your life for almost a year,” said Bruce, who recently ran and finished this year’s Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City.

For Bruce, the race was his second Ironman — the legendary race in which participants must swim for 2.4 miles, bike for 112 miles and then run a full 26.2-mile marathon. He clocked in at just under 14 hours, a near two-hour improvement from his first go.

“It gets lonely,” Bruce said of training, remembering many a winter morning running around at 5 a.m. while the world around him slept.

Although becoming an Ironman takes a strong individual effort, Bruce said he wouldn’t have been able to get there without his training buddies, Diane Stokes of Northborough and Melissa Tracey of Harvard.

“Anyone can do this,” said Stokes, who runs FitBricks, a Northborough business that offers training to area triathletes. Stokes met Bruce when she taught math to his daughter in middle school in 2006, and encouraged him to give the sport a shot.

“I wasn’t a big swimmer,” Bruce said, but Stokes helped him improve enough to be competitive in that leg of the race.

Bruce’s friend Tracey also finished the Ironman with half an hour to spare — quite the accomplishment for a 57-year-old who had never so much as competed in a half-Ironman.

“I burst into tears,” Tracey said of crossing the finish line. “It wore me down mentally in a way that nothing else has worn me down, ever, but it’s all worth it.”

Tracey has Celiac disease and cannot eat gluten, so she had to carry her own drinks and snacks with her since race hands on the sidelines only had things she couldn’t consume.

“I just kind of leave it all out there,” she said.

Tracey and Bruce have trained with Stokes for several years, and the whole trio qualified and competed last year in the 2011 International Triathalon Union World Championships in Beijing, China.

“You feel like an Olympian,” Bruce said, describing the massive opening ceremony that was held for the event in the Olympic Stadium used for the summer Olympics in 2008.

In order to qualify for Worlds, all three triathletes had to qualify at National Championships held in Tuscaloosa, Ala. in 2010.

Bruce and Tracey finished in the top 25 in their respective age ranges, qualifying them for a “sprint” race —a half-mile swim, 12-to-13 mile bike ride and 5K run.

Stokes bested 90 percent of the field in her age range in a different qualifying race called an Aquathon — a speed race consisting of a short run, short swim and another short run.

She finished in third at Worlds, and was presented a bronze medal for her achievement.

“It’s a very addictive sport,” said Stokes, who is currently training to qualify for the 2014 World Championships.

Bruce said he’d also like to get to Worlds again too — surprising given that his first thought after finishing his first Ironman was that he never wanted to see his bike again.

“You forget the pain,” Bruce said, smiling. “It’s like having a child.”

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