Race Report: 2012 Portland Triathlon – Olympic Distance

Submitted by Craig Dean –

The fastest growing race in the Pacific Northwest took on a new venue for the 2012 edition of the Portland Triathlon.  Due to capital improvements to the light rail system and some uncertainties with the prior venue of Tom McCall Waterfront Park, race directors moved the venue to the expanses of Cathedral Park in north Portland.  Registration filled throughout the season and reached the nearly 1,000 capacity limit a week prior to the event.

With near perfect conditions brewing in the skies above, athlete’s gathered at the boat launch for the multi-wave swim start in the green flowing waters of the Willamette.  The rectangular out-and-back swim began with a short first buoy followed by a long stretch into the sun and against the current.  In all, over a dozen waves took to the waters in a well-coordinated start.  Pre-race notables Dave Gettle and Daniel Hough led out in the male under-35 wave and ultimately paddled their way to 28:20 and 27:55 swim split’s, respectively.  The following wave featured the male 35-44 starters and perennial race favorite Roger Thompson.  Roger dealt with an early elbow to the eye and managed most of the opening stages of the swim with a lens full of Willamette.  His sight may have been hindered, but his stroke was not as he exited the water with a 25:27 swim split.

The women’s race featured one of the fastest swims on the day in 22-year-old Whitney Dawson’s 24:10.  Whitney’s hydro prowess placed her over four minutes ahead of Angie Smith’s 28:09 swim split and between 7-10 minutes up on her other major competitors for the overall.  Boise’s Sarah Jackson hit the boat ramp and traversed the transition area in 31:05 while Portland’s Brynje Enderle and Ann Davidson crossed the mat in 33:32 and 35:01, respectively.

Seeing as Cathedral Park is located directly below the huge arches of the St. Johns Bridge and well below the nearest surface streets, cyclists started their ride geared down for a short climb out of transition.  The fans were enthusiastic and the local authorities manned each of the major intersections leading out to the well groomed tarmac of North Portland.  Thompson and Gettle exited transition near each other and tussled early in the ride swapping positions before Thompson’s dominant time trial skills took hold.  Gettle, a superior rider in his own right, held tight to the new leader and spun his way to 26.69mph average bike split, second only to Thompson’s 27.53mph.  While the two leaders created separation from the pack, Daniel Hough and myself pedaled our way into 3rd and 4th overall by the end of the ride.

The women’s race took on a major shift in overall positioning once the carbon frames replaced the neoprene suits.  Davidson buzzed through the field and reminded many of the faster swimmers how she has won most of the NW regional races she enters.  Davidson’s bike split (24.04 mph) topped all other women on the day and vaulted her from middle of the pack to 3rd overall heading into the run.  Dawson matched her dominant swim split with a courageous effort on the bike and managed to transition just seconds behind Angie Smith.  Smith, the owner of both a solid swim and ride pulled into the lead when exiting transition.

If it wasn’t enough that Thompson swims and rides like he was Superman, he also transitions like the man of steel leaving no holes in his game.  By the time he slipped on his orange K-Swiss and skipped onto the run course, his lead was growing like the national deficit.  Gettle, Hough and myself settled into a tightly contested battle for 2nd place.  Seeing that we started in different waves, Gettle and Hough would have to guesstimate their lead on me in an effort to cross the line two minutes ahead of our starting differential.  I managed to remain focused and motivated while chasing the virtual position of the runners ahead of me.  By the time we hit the St. Johns Bridge for a half-mile, out-and-back there was no place left to hide.  The site of miles 17 and 18 in the Portland Marathon course were much quicker on this 10K run to the finish.  Hough reported running a 5:20 on his final mile that featured a heavy downhill section, but it still left him 27 seconds back of the combative Gettle.  I managed to squeeze inside of the 2-minute start difference by 40 seconds over Gettle and good for 2nd position overall. Thompson set the original course record with a jaw dropping sub two-hour race on a moderately difficult course.  It’s safe to say he is finding his form two weeks ahead of his Toyota Cup race in Texas.

On the women’s side, Smith and Dawson entered the run in a near tie.  The early incline and flat run out to the University of Portland campus were enough to create separation between the two as Smith established a comfortable but tenuous lead.  Davidson had her fishing pole out and reeled in young Dawson before setting her sights on the race leader.  Davidson managed to eat away at small chunks of Smith’s lead before the real estate ran out on her.  By the finishing stretch, Smith cruised home for the overall win and an outstanding performance in all three disciplines.  Davidson finished 2nd just two minutes back and Dawson 3rd just 22 seconds later.

It was a brilliant day of racing and the season closer for many.  There were many familiar faces in the crowd and great food and beverage to share with them.  Athlete’s Lounge left no stone uncovered and AA Sports made sure we all got our times recorded.  Thank you to everyone that makes multi-sport racing a success in the Northwest – it’s a lifestyle worth celebrating.

Overall Winner Male
Roger Thompson – Timex Multi-Sport, Spokane, WA  1:59:07

Overall Winner Female
Angie Smith, Salem, OR  02:20:40

Overall Results for Sprint and Olympic distance races – CLICK HERE


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