Submitted by Craig Dean –
The traditional start to the multi-sport racing season kicked off Saturday June 7 in Fairview, Oregon with the Blue Lake Sprint Triathlon. Nearly 400 competitors toed the line near 8:00am with many first timers joining wily veterans of competition on the beach front of Blue Lake Park. The wide open venue and pancake flat course typically yield fast times and a predicatively pleasant experience. For those looking for a last minute bike adjustment or air in their tires, Athlete’s Lounge provided mechanics and expertise just outside the transition area. Lining the park were many retail vendors offering new gear and gadgets to those looking to add to their multi-sport accessories. And for those looking for additional motivation to find the finish line and complete the mission, there was Deschutes Beer on draft and live music from local cover band Hit Explosion.
The grey capped elites kicked off the racing with a small pack of experienced racers. Oregon State University’s triathlon club was well represented with several of the pre-race favorites in last year’s Blue Lake Olympic champion Blair Bronson, perennial threat Ray Fiori and the young upstart Marco Ramirez. We bantered pre-race about who would lead out on the swim and Fiori seized the opportunity from the typical heels of the fish like Ramirez. It would be Fiori’s mistake as he lengthened his swim with a premature turn around the second buoy. Ramirez stayed the course and found Sara Cannon beside him as they swam well ahead of the trailing pack of males. Cannon crossed the timing mat with a swim split of 11:24 and Ramirez 1 second behind her. The fastest swim splits of the day came out of a later wave with Liam Keeney’s 11:06 and Sawyer Olson’s 11:09.
Ramirez kept the pressure on by transitioning to his bike in 90 seconds and widening his lead to just over a minute. Cannon was next out of transition 23 seconds later as she began to build upon her early lead as well. I cleared the racks with Bronson and Brett Donis sniffing my tracks and Fiori a bit further behind due to his misdirected swim. Remy Maquire loaded her bike within 90 seconds of Cannon and well clear of the next ladies to the tarmac.
Bronson powered hard into the 12-mile ride with the top bike split of the day and claimed the overall lead before the turn-around cone. The head of OSU’s triathlon program can ride even with most of the local pros and knew he had to sustain his effort with training partner Fiori hungry to keep him close before the run. Donis laid down the 3rd fastest bike split to overtake Ramirez just ahead of T2.
On the women’s side it was all Cannon on the bike. She followed the top swim split with the top bike split in her field and was left to race the clock to the finish line. Maguire pedaled strong to hold onto 2nd position in the elite wave, but would effectively slip to 3rd with the blazing bike ride from Anne Heiner in a later wave. Heiner held a 20 second virtual lead over Maguire heading into the run.
The men’s race was tightly packed with five of us racing within sight of each other. Bronson laid down a 6-minute pace that was matched by all except Fiori. He inched closer with a steady 5:40 pace to draw the competition all the way to the wire. The two matched strides through the twists of the park before Bronson bolted and then lunged for the line. The finishing times were identical at 1:02:09, but Bronson’s chip crossed the mat first for the win. Grass stains and smiles covered the two Beavers as they laughed off the hypoxic need for air. Donis finished a strong performance 44 seconds later with Ramirez and myself spaced evenly behind him.
After Cannon cruised to the women’s victory in 1:08:38, the race for 2nd came down to the two fastest run splits in the ladies field. Maguire outpaced Heiner to make up the 20 second differential and then kicked hard to the line to secure 2nd place by a similar margin.
The festivities continued again on Sunday with the Olympic distance event and a dominating performance by 41-year-old Matt Berg. Berg is no stranger to podium finishes and recently added a child to his juggling show of work, marriage and triathlon. His sub 2-hour performance is proof to many that we can have it all in life well past the proverbial hill of 40-years of age. Congrats to all that challenged themselves for the first time and to those that returned for the familiar exuberance of a completed race. Live well and race on.