Race Report: 2011 Heart of the Valley Sprint Triathlon

Submitted by Dave Campbell –

The Northwest’s cool, soggy, spring greeted over 200 triathletes, a handful of duathletes, and nearly 100 kids on Memorial Day at the Osborn Aquatic Center in Corvallis, OR for the 2011 edition of the Heart of the Valley Triathlon (HOTV).  The lousy spring, the likelihood of rain, and a slightly shorter, less hilly bike were all topics of conversation as athletes positioned their gear in transition.  The HOTV’s 50-meter pool venue and 10-second intervals provide good segue way into racing in open water in the months ahead, and is certainly the least chaotic and best organized indoor (swim) sprint tri anywhere in Oregon.

This year’s event moved along quickly with athletes racing simultaneously in both the indoor and outdoor pools in long course luxury.  The 11-mile bike course is split between blazing 40-45 mile per hour descents, very steep and challenging, but thankfully short, climbs, and some extended flat sections.  The 5k run is one of the fastest around, looping gently through pancake flat neighborhoods and finishing on a running track.  The weather did hold… mostly, with some sprinkles that started during the third of four heats. Temperatures topped out in the mid 50s and finally some glorious sun made an appearance for the awards ceremony.

The HOTV distance is tilted a bit towards the swimmers and Grant Hayball, a former swimming star at Linfield College, now 31-years-old and living in Grants Pass, took full advantage.  He led convincingly out of the 750-meter swim in 9:47, well clear of the men and with only top woman Rachel Lee (22, from Corvallis, OR) anywhere near (10:22).  44-year-old Susan Fox, fresh off a 10:37 Ironman effort and training for Kona, was next best woman in 11:50.

Meanwhile, on the bike a familiar dynamic developed with Team Dean riders Devin Vanscoy (the winner at WOU, 26, of Salem) and namesake Craig Dean (36 from Portland) and I going back and forth while reeling in faster swimmers while chasing Hayball.  I overtook a rider I thought to be Hayball on the final climb, while finally putting  a little distance on the Team Dean riders, but instead it was Daniel Hough (30 from Talent), who had swum 11:18, second best man.  My 28:36 bike was second only to relay rider Blair Bronson (27:53) but Hough, Dean and Vanscoy were hot on my heels into transition. Hayball, in only his second season of racing triathlons, has improved immensely this year, and after a solid third place at the WOU Sprint Tri, had ridden 30:22, seventh best, and was still in the lead.  Recently crowned State Tandem Time Trial State Champion (with husband Bryant) Janet Howard, 50 years young from Clackamas, OR was fastest woman in 33:34 as Lee fell back and the consistent Fox (33:54) took over the women’s lead.

Dean, running smoothly, effortlessly, and dang fast went by me like a shot.  Hough, a new entity to most of us was next (he would run 17:18) and Vanscoy was to follow shortly.  The talented Vanscoy, Oregon triathlon’s equivalent of an energetic, playful, and sometimes errant pup, has had his run training interrupted with a stress fracture and was not his usual self and I kept him close.  Dean was running extremely well and was third fastest among all event athletes in 17:19, enough to win the 35-39 age group.  Hayball, however, ran 17:54, transitioned well, and led wire-to-wire to win in 59:18, still 21 seconds clear for his first overall victory.  Hough, was impressive in 1:00:24 for third.  I not only managed to keep Vanscoy close but actually beat him by five seconds in the sprint to the line to manage fourth overall in 1:01:11 and win the Masters and 40-44 age group title.  Vanscoy was top 25-29 while local Brian Burkhardt took top honors in 20-24 with a 1:04:59.  Mark Tribe of Eugene won the 50-54 in 1:09:47 and Portland’s Steve Mayer the 45-49 (and second overall Master) in 1:04:33.  Notable was the 1:16:20 posted by Sawyer Olsen from Kodiak, AK for 59th place overall as Sawyer is just twelve years old!

Northwest legend Fox, comfortably in the lead after the bike ran 19:52, the second best women’s run split, to take both the overall and masters titles in 1:07:39, an impressive twelfth best on the day and over two minutes clear of the next woman.  21-year-old Molly McGraw of Corvallis, steady and consistent across all three disciplines topped her age group in 1:10:07 as that next finisher.  The ageless Howard, a top duathlete, ran 19:31, fastest among the women but could not overcome her slow swim (15:52) to earn third and the 50-54 age group title with 1:11:02.  Top swimmer Lee was fourth overall (1:13:17), followed by another young Corvallis athlete, 23-year-old Kayla McGahey in 1:13:26.  Juline Walker of Florence won the 25-29 age group in 1:13:47 (sixth overall), Amy Mills of Lake Oswego (seventh overall) won the 35-39 in 1:15:49, and local Jennifer Miller (eighth overall) topped the 30-34 with 1:16:09.  Sheila Donahoe, ninth overall, won the 45-49 age group in 1:16:13, and Nikki Grenier of Bend, the tenth overall finisher was top 18-19 in 1:17:55.

The Go Beavs! Relay Team, all clad in Orange and Black OSU  Tri Club skinsuits BLAZED to relay victory in 55:53 courtesy of Pamela Johnson (11:00 swim), Blair Bronson (27:53 bike) and Chris Depner (16:17 run).  40-year-old Sean Grunwald of Medford won the men’s duathlon while 41-year-old Anu Campbell of Klamath Falls topped the women’s field in 1:27:02.  40 kids age 4-10 competed in the novice triathlon, quite a joyous spectacle while 46 more kids age 7-12 raced in the longer kids triathlon event.

Next up, the real deal! Open water season is here and Blue Lake calls!  Don’t count on sunshine, but count on a big and super talented field, a flat, fast course and the start of summer.  Keep training, pray for sunshine, and see you out there!

For overall results, visit www.racecenter.com/results.