Submitted by Craig Dean
The 19th annual Pacific Crest long course triathlon was greeted with a record breaking heat wave. The race organizers responded by adjusting the start time forward to 8:00am and offering additional aid-stations on the run course. The athletes appreciated the early start and additional support.
The elite wave bulged with familiar faces that typically race towards the front of the pack. Last year’s runner up, Andrew Drobeck, waded in the waters alongside his Missoula, Montana, training partner Jesse Carnes. Bend, Oregon, was well represented with veteran competitors in Brett Crandall and Richard Albrow as well as young upstarts Jake McDonald and Gray Skinner. On the women’s side of the elite wave was reigning champion Mackenzie Madison flanked by a handful of contenders looking for their shot at the crown. With the opening gun, roughly 20 gold caps splashed into the first of two loops around the beautiful waters of Wickiup Reservoir followed by multiple age group waves.
Brett Crandall and Colin O’Brady peeled away from the pack before the third turn and ultimately exited the waters in 26:19 and 27:15 respectively. Nearly a minute later, Albany’s Ray Fiori skipped up the boat ramp in pursuit of the early leaders. As a powerful cyclist and overall winner of the Leadman 250 and Xterra Portland triathlons, Ray’s bid for the podium rested heavily on his combined swim-bike performance ahead of the run.
On the women’s side, Madison led out of the water with her best Pac Crest swim split to date in 29:22. Trailing Madison by 28 seconds was Boise’s Erin Green in what was shaping up to be a hotly contested battle for the women’s overall. Madison is no stranger to grueling duals on the Central Oregon course with her most recent victories contested narrowly through the run. The remainder of the women’s field trailed by a few minutes heading into the epic bike ride up and then over Mount Bachelor.
A key component to any athlete’s success on the Pac Crest long course is a solid bike ride. The course is wide open and calls for strong tempo riding through the rolling inclines that lead to the final ascent up the mountain. Powerful riders that prevailed in the past like the late Steve Larsen and still dominant Matt Lieto created insurmountable leads by pounding away the competition on the bike. Andrew Drobeck has similar horse power under his hood and turned them loose after trailing the entire elite wave on the swim. He breezed by me around mile post 10 with a tempo and cadence that appeared at ease. Drobeck established the fastest split on the bike (2:15:40) and moved into 2nd place behind another beast on the bike, Gray Skinner (2:16:22), heading into the run. Third to the racks after the bike was 21-year old Jake McDonald racing 5-minutes in arrears after his 2:22:00 bike split.
Madison’s early lead out of the water evaporated in transition as Green found her way onto the pedals ahead of the defending champion. Her top bike split of 2:38:26 was enough to grow a near 3-minute gap after Madison’s 2:40:40 split. Portland’s Ann Heiner moved up to third in the women’s race after a 2:38:53 ride and was trailed a few minutes later by Jenny Fletcher and Cathleen Knutson.
On a hot day in a long race, an athlete’s performance hinges greatly with successful hydration and nutrition plans. As the temperature in the Sunriver Village crept over 90 degrees on the twisting bike paths that double as the run course, racing positions shuffled. Cups of ice and electrolyte drinks were scooped in a mad dash to suppress the heat. Several miles into the run, Drobeck took the overall lead from Skinner with McDonald trailing close behind with an effortless looking stride. McDonald ate into Drobeck’s lead in small chunks throughout the run while laying down the top run split on the day with a 1:20:34. Drobeck split 1:22:42 on the run to hold off his young chaser and take the overall win in 4:13:52. McDonalds 4:15:43 was good for 2nd with Skinner pulling to the line in 3rd with an overall time of 4:18:17. Carnes and O’Brady rounded out the final money slots in the men’s race with overall times of 4:31:28 and 4:32:28 respectively.
On the women’s side, Green pressed her lead off the bike and found a steady stride on the run. Her 1:28:52 run split was second only to Fletcher’s 1:25:27. Green completed her dominant performance in an overall time of 4:40:08. Madison held strong on the run and gutted out a 1:30:34 split to pull her to the line in 2nd place overall and a 4:44:41 overall time. Her incredible run of 6-consecutive Pac Crest long course titles comes to a close after a spirited chase of Green and a resilient run to the finish. Third to the line for the women was Fletcher after an astonishingly swift run in steamy conditions. She stopped the clock with an overall time of 4:49:37. Rounding out the women’s money slots was Knutson in 5:01:51 and Heiner in 5:04:20.