Race Report: 2013 Heart of the Valley Triathlon

Submitted by Craig Dean –

The 2013 HOTV sprint triathlon was held five weeks earlier than in previous years, but maintained its excellent reputation as a well-organized, competitive event for a wide array of athletes.  The Osborn Aquatic Center in Corvallis, OR once again hosted the multiple-wave pool swim where participants were treated to extra wide lanes in the 50-meter indoor pool.  Local Northwest multi-sport legend Kirk Rose greeted the participants on the pool deck and bellowed instructions for everyone to hear.  He worked with the official race director in explaining to competitors the 10-second send offs, passing etiquette and the route to the transition area.  Kirk’s energy was contagious to many of those around him and especially to those who know his history in racing and overcoming personal health issues over the years.

The race had a clean start and a bit of shuffling in the lanes before each swimmer found their tempo.  Daniel Hough started 10-seconds behind Ray Fiori, but managed to skip past him in the opening 100 meters allowing Fiori to embark on his pre-race strategy of clinging to Hough’s slipstream and enjoying the speed and comfort of the draft.  Ray commented after the race that he had to press into anaerobic levels to catch Hough’s feet after each turn, but the benefits of the draft made the effort worth the while.  The fastest swimmers made waves in lanes 9 and 10 with Karl Britsch leading Marco Ramirez and Brian Villarete out to transition.  The transition area was clogged early with the top eight swimmers separated by 1:34.  One of the pre-race favorites and defending TRI NW Sprint Champion, Nate Youngs, had the misfortune of swimming an extra lap, setting him behind his actual efforts.

The women’s race was tight as well.  Mixed in with the male lane assignments, Robin Clevenger and Angie Smith exited the waters just seconds apart and quick on the heels of the leaders in the men’s field.  Angie, currently training for Nationals in Milwaukee, WI this June and flying the banner for the state of Oregon at the event, has become a staple competitor for the overall win at most Northwest races she enters.   Chasing the leaders into transition by 30 seconds was Kelsey Longrie and 10 seconds later, Kambria Schumacher.  Schumacher was looking to make her mark on the hilly ride.

The bike course at HOTV may be a mile shorter than the typical sprint races, but it makes up for the distance with an aggressive elevation profile.  After exiting transition and crossing a controlled intersection, the road pointed skyward in a quadricep burning incline that is just long enough to coax respect from the most accomplished cyclists.  Ray, an experienced mountain bike rider and self-confessed specialist at the cycling leg of triathlons, took advantage of his slim frame to leap up the ascent while gobbling up the leading swimmers.  Ray’s burning desire to establish the overall lead while on the bike was accomplished when he overtook Hough amongst the slopes at the midpoint of the ride.  He ultimately grabbed the top bike split of the day with a 24.46mph average speed.   I picked my way through the field while chasing relay rider Grant Eldridge.  We eventually joined Hough who was riding in 2nd position overall for a spirited conclusion of the bike race.  We were tightly trailed by a young upstart in the sport of triathlon, Marco Ramirez.  Due to his start differential, Marco finished the ride in 3rd position overall and in contention for the podium.

The women transitioned well out of the pool and created separation early on the ride.  Smith churned ahead of Clevenger and into the overall lead on the early slopes of the course.  Her 21.31mph average speed was good enough to hold the overall lead into transition, but her gap on Schumacher became dangerously thin.  Schumacher set the top women’s split with a 21.51mph average and whittled Smith’s lead down to 22 seconds heading into the run.  Clevenger nailed down an impressive ride to hold onto 3rd position while Erica McKenzie made the biggest jump from deep in the field following the swim to 4th position after the ride.

In stark contrast to the undulating terrain of the bike course, the run was a pancake flat, two-loop course that offers a peaceful neighborhood setting with a few tight corners.  It was difficult to site anybody except those in immediate proximity.  The only evidence of Fiori’s solid lead on the pack of chasers came from a few of the more experienced spectators that clocked and communicated split times.  To those hoping to catch Ray, the split information was not supportive.  In Ray’s own words, “I made it hurt”.  Fiori cruised to victory by nearly a full minute and a total time of 1:01:01.  I finished 56 seconds behind the winner and Hough another 47 seconds behind me.

On the women’s side, Schumacher bolted out of transition and quickly established her tempo around the track which led out into the neighborhoods.  In a slight alteration to the course from season’s past, the run segment started with a loop around the track rather than finishing on the rubberized surface.  Schumacher continued her quick cadence and leapt into the lead to never look back.  Her women’s best run split of 19:13 capped a winning day with an overall time of 1:07:19.  Angie Smith laid down a solid run of her own to finish 30 seconds back of the lead and well clear of her nearest pursuer.  McKenzie continued with her momentum off of the bike and transitioned in a flash before setting her targets on 3rd place.  Her 20:05 run split matched that of Smith and catapulted her into a 3rd place overall finish.

Congratulations to everyone involved with the promotion, organization and execution of the event including both the AA Sports event staff and the folks at the Osborn Aquatic Center. The Heart of the Valley Triathlon provides a perfect opportunity for those looking for their first triathlon and a favorite for those looking to get an early season race under their belts.  If you haven’t already, spread the word about the sport.  It’s a lifestyle more than an event.  It’s a community to be proud of and one that can be shared with many more.

For complete event results CLICK HERE.