Submitted by Craig Dean –
The 7th annual Portland Triathlon registered to a sold out capacity weeks in advance for the second consecutive year. The iconic venue located inside the Portland city limits also played host as the Pacific NW Regional Age Group Championship in what is becoming a very popular event for amateur elites and weekend warriors alike. The first day of fall served up threatening skies and gusting winds that created a bit of chop in the waters of the Willamette River. Much to the delight of those competing, volunteering and supporting, Mother Nature held the major soak on Sunday until well after the event and awards were completed.
The action kicked off at 7:30 am with the Men’s 29 & under wave of yellow caps diving into the relatively warm waters from the public boat launch. The school of swimmers from the opening wave stuck tight through the opening turn before finding separation in the spacious waters at the foot of the St Johns Bridge. Six additional waves of Olympic distance competitors followed suit in starting times separated three minutes apart.
Drifting kayaks lined the outside channel of the rectangular swim and, in so doing, provided sighting for those looking for direction and support for anyone needing a hand. Off in the distance, a Coast Guard vessel blazed its lights to alert incoming boat traffic of the event activity. Young Garen Marter (16) spearheaded the attack from the opening gun in what would become the top male split of the morning (19:19, 1:11/100 yard). Behind Marter, was pre-race favorite and 2013 Long Course 20-24 Duathlon National Champion, Evan Pardi. Evan paced himself with Stephan Morris and the two exited the waters in 21:11 and 21:07 respectively.
The men’s race featured competition for the overall win from various waves, which kept volunteer elite Angela Lawton very busy with her smartphone app recording splits. When Dave Gettle led the male 30-34 of the water in 21:04, he learned that he was a minute down from the leader and virtually even with the 2nd and 3rd place swimmers. Four minutes later, when I lead the male 35-39 wave onto the boat launch, Angela was on point with news that I was two minutes down on the teenager and a minute down on the major competition. Knowledgeable support is an added perk when racing under the umbrella of an Athlete’s Lounge sponsored event.
The women’s waves hit the river after the men, but that didn’t deter Whitney Dawson from cruising through the masses of the men’s field in pursuit to the fastest swim of the day (19:04, 1:10/100 yard). After finishing on the podium in 2012, Dawson limited her day to a swim/bike relay with a runner finishing their relay race. This limited Dawson from factoring in the overall results for triathlon. The leading triathlete out of the water for the women was Alyson O’Brien with a 20:19 split. Roughly a minute back of her was defending champion and perennial favorite Angie Smith (21:21). Smith defended her “Best in the West” title earlier in the month and won the women’s race at Age Group National’s earlier in the year.
The bike course can be described as “flat and fast” except for a couple of caveats. First, riders had to gear down for a short and sharp incline out from the base of the bridge and onto the surface streets of North Portland. Much later in the ride, we were greeted with gusting headwinds that challenged the aerodynamics of each cyclist a few miles before descending back to the transition area. The first challenge on the ride was well documented by the event organizers and obvious to anyone walking into transition in the morning. The second challenge arrived with the shock and contempt of coal in one’s stocking on Christmas morning. It doesn’t matter that everyone had to deal with the wind, it can still suck the spirit out of a fatigued rider.
Pardi rallied from a solid swim and transitioned well enough to grab the physical lead very early in the ride. Having recently inked a sponsorship deal with bike manufacturer Planet X, Pardi looked eager to show off his improving bike speed. Behind him was monster cyclist, Dave Gettle. Gettle stands out with his tree trunk quads and blue racing kit. He stomped down a tempo unmatched by anyone else on the course en route to the top bike split on the day (55:51, 26.7mph) and good enough create four-minute lead heading into transition. Due to the start differential, the two athletes were physically separated by only one minute heading into the run.
Kevin Headley rallied a strong bike after a superb swim to cling onto 3rd position into transition just ahead of myself, Mike Kelly and Richard Albrow. Also making a big move on the bike, was Brett Donis, who rode the 2nd fastest split (25.20mph) to move from 45th place overall after the swim into 7th place entering the run. The race for the overall win and the secondary race for the last remaining podium slot were wide open and ready to be determined on the run.
On the women’s side, Smith established the overall lead early on the ride while sliding past throngs of male riders from the earlier waves. Smith’s rode with power (23.27mph), but her lead would still be challenged by strong bikers behind her. Stefanie Bergh laid down the fastest women’s split (23.55mph) catapulting her from the middle of the pack into contention alongside Elisa Litwora and her impressive ride (23.04mph). Smith held a near four-minute lead, and a bit of swagger, seeing that she regularly runs towards the top of the field.
On the men’s side, Pardi transitioned with purpose and bolted behind Gettle with the audacious task of not only needing to overtake the leading racer, but also having the create a three-minute gap before the finish line to grab the victory. As a former #1 ranked high school cross country runner in Alabama, Pardi was up to the task. By the time I saw the leaders returning from the first out-and-back near mile post two, Pardi was building on a near one-minute gap on the gutsy Gettle. He slapped my low five as we passed with the fervor of a competitor ready to lay it all down to the finish. A few moments later, Gettle passed by with an ease in his gait and a confidence on his face that lead me to believe the race for the overall win was not yet determined. Trailing Gettle was Coast Guard serviceman Mike Kelly. Having recently relocated to Coos Bay, OR, Kelly is still figuring out the Pacific Northwest triathlon scene. By the looks of his run (6:05), he will be a major competitor in 2014.
When I next saw Pardi, he was flying off of the St. Johns Bridge with a grimace on his face that proved he was laying it all on the asphalt. His effort was good enough to win the Pacific NW Regional title in a total time of 2:01:20. Gettle ran hard to the line in an impressive 2nd place showing (2:01:44) that may be good enough to secure a repeat for him in the TriNW Olympic distance season rankings. Kelly rounded out the podium (2:03:31) just seconds ahead of the surging Richard Albrow (2:03:35). Albrow capped a distinguished season with yet another Masters title.
On the women’s side, Smith owned the run, and ultimately the race for another repeat title this year. She now has more titles to defend than most people have races in a season. At 40 years old, Smith races in the Master’s category in a similar fashion to Oregon’s Ann Ciaverella in that they often win the overall race convincingly. The podium slots were in the bag for Litwora and Bergh when they exited transition together, but the fight for 2nd place held in the balance of the run. Litwora won the battle with a strong run (7:01) to cap a great race (2:16:15) for 2nd place. Bergh also ran well (7:14) and held strong to the line for 3rd place (2:17:33). The top women’s split on the run came from young Noelle Van Rysselbergh (22) and her 6:14 pace.
For anyone looking for inspiration to make year-over-year improvements, look no further than Brett Donis’s performance from 2012 to 2013. At the age of 44, Donis dropped his racing time down from 2:26 in 2012, down to 2:09 in 2013. It’s never too late to make improvements.
For complete results – CLICK HERE.
Overall Male; Evan Pardi; Yachats, OR; 2:01:20
Overall Female; Angie Smith; Salem, OR ; 2:11:33
M 15-16; Garen Marter; Portland, OR; 2:27:55
F 15-16; Rachel Sawchuk; Dallas, TX; 2:32:47
M 17-19; Kevin Le; Lake Oswego, OR; 2:18:07
M 20-24; Mike George; Happy Valley, OR; 2:28:38
F 20-24; Sissel Holloway; Portland, OR; 2:27:14
M 25-29; Robert Kreek; Portland, OR; 2:13:31
F 25-29; Alyson O’Brien; Portland, OR; 2:27:05
M 30-34; David Gettle; Weiser, ID; 2:01:44
F 30-34; Elisa Litwora; Forest Grove, OR; 2:16:15
M 35-39; Craig Dean; Portland, OR ; 2:04:49
F 35-39; Nancy Nichols; Portland, OR; 2:29:25
M 40-44; Richard Albrow; Bend, OR; 2:03:35
F 40-44; Corinne Walton; Beaverton, OR; 2:22:21
M 45-49; Theordore Casterline; Portland, OR; 2:09:19
F 45-49; Lisa Wourms; Camas, WA; 2:30:47
M 50-54; Clay Hathorn; Portland, OR; 2:19:05
F 50-54; Kristin Stilton; Boise, ID; 2:36:44
M 55-59; Richard Earle; Salem, OR; 2:26:19
F 55-59; Bridget Dawson; Portland, OR; 2:24:09
M 60-64; Philip Anderson; Portland, OR; 2:32:25
F 60-64; Lori Clarke; Clarkston, WA; 3:11:16
M 65-69; Ken Zell; ; Portland, OR; 2:43:15
M 70-74; Thomas Crites; Portland, OR; 3:19:18;