Submitted by Dave Campbell –
What a difference a year makes! Blue Lake, the Northwest season opener was a wet, sloppy, affair in 2010. Held in a near deluge, there were massive amounts of standing water on the course, in transition, and the last minute shuttles had to be arranged to get the athletes in and out of the flooded park. But 2011, my twelfth consecutive race at Blue Lake, arrived with mostly sunny skies and comfortably warm temperatures. With only a light breeze, it was a perfect day for racing. The BLT is not only the season opener for for the sport of triathlon in the Northwest but is also the TRI NorthWest Club Championship, so many Northwest teams were out in force to contest the title. The Sprint events of Saturday combined with the Olympic-distance races on Sunday brought more than 1000 athletes to the venue over the weekend.
The 1500-meter swim was held in a counter clockwise direction this year to cope with water logged grassy slopes exiting the leg, and swimming into the rising sun was a little more challenging than previous years but the change was necessary. 27-year-old Eddie Switaj of Mercer Island, WA absolutely blew everyone away, exiting the water in 18:11 and taking a commanding lead. Ironman legend and longtime swim strongman John Weston of Missoula, MT, 54 years young, was second out of the water in 19:03 and many of the twenty swimmers in the elite wave stayed tightly bunched throughout. 38-year-old Sybil Fisher of Portland swam 21:56, ninth best on the day to lead the women on to the bike.
The 40-kilometer bike course, pancake flat, save for the slight rise out onto Marine Drive and the slight dip under the freeway overpass, does have the challenge of wind off the Columbia River. 29-year-old David Gettle, a Category 2 racing cyclist and pro triathlete from Weiser, ID ruled the road. His 55:15 on the slightly revised course, which now stays on Marine Drive entirely, brought him right up to early leader Switaj (58:41). Meanwhile, the guy I exited the water with, Craig Dean (23:01 swim), a new force on the Northwest tri scene and scintillating runner, moved into fourth with 57:01. OSU Beaver biker extraordinaire Blair Bronson, rode 56:48 to move into fourth, setting up an exciting race for the title. The first heats had the additional thrill of a half dozen military fighter jets taking off at the airport prompting some athletes to ride by covering their ears-yeow!
The women’s race, meanwhile was really shaping up well. Fisher, a swim specialist, was overtaken 38-year-old Angie Smith of Salem, an experienced veteran triathlete who biked 1:03:06. The fastest split, however, was by 32-year-old local Kaytee Petross of Troutdale. Kaytee, winner of last years Hagg Lake Triathlon, is Kona-bound in the fall by virtue of her Ironman Wisconsin performance, and blazed her bike leg in 1:01:52 to come off the bike 33rd overall after her 25:51 swim. 21-year-old Beaver clubber Molly McGraw of Corvallis was lying third after a 23:07/1:05:59 Swim/Bike.
The Blue Lake run course sticks to paths through the park and then parallels Marine Drive on and out-and-back route that then meanders back to the lakeside before finishing near the transition area. Coming back from the turnaround, Switaj was still in the lead with a light, short little stride that effective enough to ultimately run 39:27. Not far behind, though, a tough chase pack was taking shape as Gettle was running his usual long legged, hard working sub forty minute 10K (39:48). Bronson had closed in (38:07) and Dean was right behind and flying, ultimately logging 36:49 and second best on the day. Receiving splits from the injured Devin Vanscoy on Gettle, the race favorite, Dean charged past, nipping the Idaho by just two seconds at the line. Coming from nearly five minutes back on the swim, however, he didn’t realize that just 20 seconds before Switaj had hung on and won the race in 2:00:16, a spread of just 22 seconds across the podium. Bronson, 23, was fourth overall in 2:01:24 to win his age group, with Gettle taking the 25-29 after overall winner Switaj was pulled out, and Dean the 35-39.
The top runner on the day was 27-year-old Chris Depner of Corvallis, and the Beaver tail hanging off his race belt as he flew by me clearly indicated his club affiliation! Coming 12th off the bike, he ran a blistering 36:41. Finishing seventh overall in 2:06:20, over three minutes faster than last year I was very happy to be top master. Just 20 seconds behind me Michael Owen of Newberg who topped the 30-34 age group. Nick Desserault of Portland won the 45-49 age group in 2:11:54 and 52-year-old Mark Tribe of Eugene was 15th overall in an impressive 2:10:53 to top his age group. Portland’s Phil Anderson won the 55-59s in 2:28:26 and Kirk Rose of Albany, the man, the legend, the unstoppable force of life, energy, and enthusiasm triumphed in the 60-64s in 2:37:14, 202nd overall amongst the 384 finishers. Alan Lyons of Portland was top 65-69er in 2:33:35 and 70-year-old Phil Johnson of Neskowin was the oldest participant and finished up in a solid 3:21:01.
Out onto the run course and the experienced Petross of the Ironheads club took charge, running 41:31, 32rd overall and third fastest among the women to break the tape in 2:13:47. Smith was less than a minute behind after a 43:55 run for second and the 35-39 title. Salem’s Stephanie Snyder had the fastest run (39:05), 14th best overall on the day and enough to win the 40-44 age group in 2:24:46. 25-year-old Rosalyn Rombauer of Normandy Park, WA was third 2:18:23 to win her age group, just 16 seconds clear of Sydney Running of Corvallis. McGraw finished in 2:19:13 to win the 20-24s while the incredible Bridget Dawson, 53 years young, was sixth overall among women, 57th overall, and top master in 2:20:27. Ashley Buffington of Tualatin, topped the 30-34s in 2:23:36 with Portland’s Susan Moote close behind in 2:23:55 claiming the 45-49s. Christine Bayless of Kirkland, WA took the 50-54s after Dawson was pulled in 2:43:20, Diana Roberts of Olympia, WA won the 55-59s in 3:00:12 and perhaps most amazing Lauren Binder, 63 years young finished in 2:26:01 to win her age group, but was 91st overall and 13th among the women!
Jeff Hoppert of Portland topped the Olympic Duathlon in 1:56:23 (18:59/58:32/38:13) and Meg Gofrey of Lake Oswego won the women’s event (19:47/1:04:15/42:02). Top Masters were Klamath Falls Sean Campbell in 2:00:30 and the amazing Kristina Lackner of Sherwood, only eight weeks back from a broken collarbone, in 2:11:31.
So with summer here the options abound. XTERRA events for the trail minded, 70.3 and Ironman events for the endurance crowd, and of course, the ever popular Pacific Crest weekend in Sunriver, OR just two weeks away. Hagg Lake will be the TRI NorthWest Olympic-distance Championship on July 9 and we are back at Blue Lake on July 31 for the Mid-Summer Triathlon and All Women’s Triathlon the day prior. The days are long, the weather is great (finally), so get out there, stay fit, and keep racing!