Race Report: 2011 Hagg Lake Olympic Triathlon

Submitted by Craig Dean –

On the second Saturday in July, Pacific Northwest multisport athlete’s enjoy an annual opportunity to race in the area’s most scenic and historic Olympic distance race – the Hagg Lake Triathlon. Dating back to the mid 80’s, and the original Bud Light Triathlon Series, Hagg Lake in Forest Grove, OR is widely known as the trail blazer for the sport of triathlon in the region. The Olympic race on Saturday July 9 would also serve as this year’s TRI NorthWest Olympic distance regional championship race.

The weather is typically bright and sunny with a little heat creeping into the event by the second transition. On this morning, the low rising sun would lay exposed to the waters of Hagg Lake in Scoggins Valley Park. This would prove challenging to a relatively small group of six red cap elite racers who lead the charge into the first turn. A lot about the swim is the leadership of the group. Many swimmers will simply follow the leader in hopes that they are in control of sighting. With no communication amongst athletes in the water, the first leg of the race can sometimes be the most chaotic. Chaos ensued after the first buoy. Many swimmers took a hard left turn following the leaders and away from the blinding sun. This direction was toward the middle of the course. Without a prompt correction from the idle kayak crew the erroneous path would continue it’s course for the red caps and suck in most of the unsuspecting followers from the large yellow cap wave. The circular swim course became more of a “G” shape for many adding precious time and effort onto an already choppy swim. Fortunately, the third turn was clearly visible from the second and order was restored.

Around the third and final turn to complete the first loop, the pack settled into their rhythm with better knowledge of what to expect on the second loop. Knowledge would not be enough. Absolutely blinded again, many in the water stopped to bob for sight or took their goggles off completely. This next turn would have to be performed by feel. I think I speak for the entire crew of swimmers in our new found respect for the blind. After the second turn and into the third, we would find our last hurdle of the day – a swim exit without an arch to aim for. Again, it was easy to follow the herd of swimmers heading to the old exit and again many were off course. Leading the men out of the water was Ciaran Smythe with an impressive 20:17, but he was followed closely by uber-swimmers Grant Hayball and Jon Walker with 20:36 and 20:45 swim splits, respectively. On the women’s side, Rosalyn Rombauer’s 25:44 split nipped the next seven women swimmers by under a minute. The women’s race was tight going onto the bike.

The men’s race would see Hayball quickly overcome Smythe in an effort to roll with the hills and hold onto his rather large lead out of the water. By the first turn around, I caught site of Grant and assessed his lead at roughly two minutes. My concern over the lead rider would quickly fade as my first turn around would offer a view of an onslaught of chasers pounding past the parking registration booth and into their own first turn around. David Garcia and Steve Mayer would gobble up most of the riders in their path on their way to top bike splits of 1:01:13 and 1:01:33 respectively. Nathan Birdsall of Couer d’Alene, ID would enter his bid for the lead by topping off his impressive swim with a pacman like effort on the bike and a split of 1:02:54. Garcia, who started a minute later than the elite wave, would take the virtual lead on the race by pulling within a minute of Hayball out of transition. Mayer and Hayball were nearly even going into the run and roughly 30 seconds behind the lead. I pulled out of transition in a virtual tie with Birdsall and Daniel Hough for fourth and roughly 2:30 behind the lead.

The women’s side, however tight entering the bike, took on a commanding separation during the two-lap tour of the park. Rosbauer ramped up her wattage and smoothed out the hilly terrain on her way to an impressive 1:10:16 bike split and opened her lead to over five minutes on second place Wendy Loo. Loo’s bike split of 1:14:26 put her just ahead of 3rd place Joy Roberts with a small pack of women in close pursuit behind her. Rosbauer might have this race in the bag heading to the run, but the rest of the podium was still in the air.

The old saying goes, at Hagg Lake if you’re not going up your going down. That is so much of what makes the run both interesting and challenging. Right out of transition, runners are met with a serious incline followed by varying levels of rolling hills. Strategy and confidence collide in a cerebral challenge of fortitude and guts. No racer is too far away so long as you can see them on the way out to the turn around.

The women’s side was decided by the solid swim and cycle by Rombauer but, for good measure, she finished off her win with a steady 44:00 split on her 10k and the win clear by nearly 11 minutes. Stephanie Snyder’s top run split of 42:22 pulled her into the mix but just short of the podium with a 5th overall finish. Susan Barth would post a similar split of 42:44 to pull near to Joy Roberts, but ultimately just short for a third overall finish and total time of 2:34:17. The aforementioned Roberts, would hang onto her spot in second with a gutsy 48:55 on the run. A tremendous showing by all of the top 10 women with a 2:40 finish representing the 10th position.

The men’s race was on fire. One would need a helicopter and stop watch to properly assess the real-time racing position of each athlete as four elite waver’s were battling out the 1-minute start difference of two age groupers. Early on, Hayball would reestablish his control of the race by skipping past Garcia and Meyer. I would move past Hough as I measured my pace and plotted each hill in route to a much clearer visual on our leader once we dropped the sprint racers at the 5k turn around. I saw Hayball a full quarter mile ahead from the bottom of the longest hill, but I didn’t dare turn to look for Birdsall. I would wait for the turn around for that. I would soon find that he was nearly a minute back of me which left us virtually even. Just after the 10k turn-around I started to lose hope as Hayball looked strong and his lead was merely chipping away in small chunks. Much like Andy Dufresne and his escape from Shawshank, small chunks can add up over time. The feet felt light after the turn and my hope was growing as I saw the chunks begin to add up. A pass was imminent, but with a mile to go and the pass completed, I had to hold onto the effort in fear that Birdsall might crack into our 1-minute differential. At the line I stuck a Usain Bolt lightning strike to the sky in hopes that my finish would hold on against our young chaser from Idaho. Hayball was next in, but Birdsall was quick to follow. It was too close to call and we would wait nearly 90 minutes until the results were final. Birdsall was 1:02 behind me to the finish and my first ever win was official.

Craig Dean 2:10:14, Nathan Birdsall 2:10:16 and Grant Hayball 2:10:58.

Congratulations to all on another wonderful race at Hagg Lake. With Mid-Summer and the new StumpTown Olympic and long course races coming soon to Blue Lake Park, it’s time we turn our attention to the flats of Marine Drive for more local fun.

Editor’s Note: Hillsboro, Oregon’s Evan Cumpston, who won the 2011 50-54 men’s age group was the only person to compete in the inaugural Hagg Lake Triathlon in 1982 and also in this year’s 30th annual race. Evan comments, “In 1982 I placed 58th overall; [this year] I won my age group (age 50) and placed 24th overall. With regard to the 1982 event, Dave Scott won, and as I remember, there were about 500 people in the event. The swim and run were longer at that time, and (if my memory serves me correctly) it was a mass swim start!”

Overall winners:
Male Craig Dean 2:10:14
Female Rosalyn Rombauer 2:23:22

Age group winners:
M 15-17 Ciaran Smythe 2:19:39
M 18-20 James Myers 2:15:13
M 21-24 Nathan Birdsall 2:10:16
M 25-29 John Moore 2:17:28
M 30-34 Grant Hayball 2:10:58
M 35-39 David Garcia 2:11:21
M 40-44 Andy Libert 2:14:30
M 45-49 Steve Meyer 2:17:35
M 50-54 Evan Cumpston 2:25:46
M 55-59 Doug Hill 2:17:44
M 60-64 Kirk Rose 2:48:13
M 70-74 Phil Johnson 3:47:35

F 20-24 Ellen McCleery 3:03:07
F 25-29 Juline Walker 2:38:29
F 30-34 Susan Barth 2:34:17
F 35-39 Joy Roberts 2:34:05
F 40-44 Rebecca Ramsey 2:35:45
F 45-49 Susan Moote 2:39:46
F 50-54 Karen Rakoz 2:54:19
F 55-59 Debra Marsh 3:25:01
F 60-64 Melody Cronenburg 3:22:39

Overall results: www.racecenter.com/results/hagg-lake

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