Submitted by Dave Campbell –
Nearly 300 athletes came out on a sunny Palm Sunday morning to some of the first solid glimmers of a late Northwest spring and some early season triathlon racing in the Willamette Valley. Race time temperatures were in the high 40s but the winds were light and breezy and everyone was happy to bid adieu to the seemingly omnipresent rain!
Heats for the 750-meter pool swim, 20K bike, and 5K run event ran from 8 a.m. through 10:30 and the turnout, combined with the venue’s parking, and the Palm Sunday traffic caused organizers and competitors alike some challenges. A revamped transition area flowed smoothly with help of many volunteers. However, some parked cars along one stretch of road on the return to the pool created some congestion and poor visibility causing one inattentive driver to send one of the competitors to the hospital.
The 750-meter pool swim stages twelve lanes separated by a central bulk head in the Albany Aquatic Center, and thus heat starts and swim segments create quite a spectacle! Four swimmers to a lane and five second intervals pre-seeded on 500 times set the stage. 27-year-old Ben Metcalfe of Pleasant Hill was first out of the water in 9:29 with his age group competitor Nick Alden of Eugene close behind in 9:40. 39-year-old Rachelle Jorgensen of Eugene and Sherwood’s Kristina Lackner, 40, came out together to lead the women in 12:58.
The only climbs on the fast bike route here are the two freeway overpasses, and the sunny conditions and light breeze made three-quarters of the course feel like a tailwind…a pleasant change from the frigid Beaver Freezer a couple weeks ago which somehow seemed to be wrought with headwinds. 22-year-old Blair Bronson and I (now age 42, dang it!) had the fastest bike splits in 31:20 but despite my “vast experience” I had somehow managed to swim an extra 50 yards (DOH!) and be much further back than I would have liked. However, these were the least of my family’s troubles on this fateful day. Lackner, who happens to be my girlfriend, had stormed to the lead in the women’s race! Still smarting from a narrow defeated to Jorgensen last year and riding high on a two minute plus overall women’s victory at the Beaver Freezer, she entered the access road to transition. Sadly, one of the drivers parked along the road chose this moment to do a three-point turn in the middle of this narrow, bumpy section of the course. Kristina yelled, and braked hard, tumbling over the bars, and sliding on her back to rest at the base of the car blocking the road. Covered in abrasions, with a shattered helmet, aching body, and broken collarbone, her race was over. Over two minutes behind, a very empathetic Jorgensen (35:29) took over the lead and with her trademark strong run that Lackner had feared (22:01, one of the top ten overall on the day) she claimed the women’s title by over two minutes. 24-year-old Sydney Running of Corvallis was next in (1:15:01), followed by 19-year-old Nicole Grenier of Corvallis in 1:19:28 for third. 47-year-old Denise Croucher of Brush Prairie, Washington was 50th overall, sixth woman and Top Master in 1:21:01.
Bronson was too far back of Alden to challenge him on the bike and Metcalfe’s 33:27 put him out of the running. Alden charged forward, fast in all disciplines, to lay down a 20 flat run, third best on the day and convincingly took the win in 1:02:32, over two minutes clear of Bronson. All feared Dave Florence, age 43 of Canby on the run, and while his 20:04 was 4th best, it was only enough to pull him into third overall. As he caught me at about the 2.5-mile mark, he secured the Masters win by 25 seconds in 1:06:38. Florence, overtook Metcalfe (4th overall) in the final 300 meters of the track and I came home 5th, only to be whisked away to the hospital, unaware until the finish of what had happened to Kristina
“Babs”, the coach of the local swim team was very thoughtful and helpful in gathering Kristina’s things and providing me with information and helping me exit. I really appreciated her kind, gentle way and she even had another volunteer, Boyd, guide me to the hospital. We met them back at the pool and they were aware of the parking getting out of hand and were already working on a solution for next year.
Keep training and see you at the races!