By Steve Handwerker/SLHCommunications, with reporting by Aaron Howard, Laconia Citizen staff sports reporter
GILFORD, New Hampshire (August 23, 2004) – After thunderous, heavy rains on Saturday challenged sprint triathletes to middle-distance-like efforts, Sunday’s middle-distance Timberman Triathlon (1.9 km S/90 km B/21.1 km R) started swimmers off under perfect race weather – low seventies, no humidity, clear skies and no wind, and ended with a boom – Michael Lovato (USA) set a new course record, 3:58.31, and Karen Smyers (USA) had a hit-out of a comeback race, winning in 4:31.53, just shy of the course record.
Canadian Peter Reid set a course record last year, 4:00.21, and American Beth Zinkand’s 4:31.10 has stood since 2002, both on the same hilly course as this year’s race in the wooded, Lake Winnipesaukee region’s Ellcoya State Park, in Gilford.
"It’s good company to win this race. Last year Peter Reid got the win and he went on to win Hawaii Ironman,” said Lovato. “It’s a beautiful race and I’d love to come back."
Smyers though wasn’t pronounced the winner until after the race when Veronique Fortin (CAN) was assessed a still unspecified four-minute penalty. Fortin wound up in third with a time of 4:35.28.
"All in all, I was very happy with my swim and my bike and about three quarters of my run," said Smyers. "I’m glad I pulled it back together because at one point I thought I would get fifth or sixth. This is my first big race in almost two years so I have to be happy with it. I was nervous that I’d be blown out of the water in all three phases coming in, but I wasn’t.” Jordan was afraid of a blowout, too, but in a different way.
“Boy, we really got hit hard, you cannot imagine,” said Keith Jordan, race director and Endorfun Sports LLC owner. “Even with the downpour, Saturday’s athletes had a good time and we had plenty of fans come out, including some of the pro athletes. Saturday was really hardest on the volunteers, harder than we expected from our first two-race weekend ever, but they really came through for us.
“We had sump pumps going, drawing the water out of the transition area, and while we worked late Saturday night to get ready for Sunday’s race, I told our crew to look up in the sky,” he added. “It was crystal clear. You could see stars everywhere. We knew things would be bright on Sunday.” In the end, 500-plus volunteers gave their entire weekend to 800 or so sprint distance athletes and the 1,400 who raced the fourth annual middle distance event.
"What a gorgeous day and a great course," said Smyers, who was attempting her first major race since having her second child. "I mean you couldn’t have asked for better. It was kind of a home town race so it was a nice one to comeback at."
Smyers seemed to be cruising to victory as she put together two great efforts in both the swim and the bike. At one point it even looked like no one was going to even be close as she was well out in front, but Fortin managed to gear down and pass her on the final stretch.
"I was thrilled with about everything, but three miles," Smyers pointed out, noting a rough period on the second loop of the run. "When I went through my bad phase everyone was making up time on me."
"I was quite surprised of it," said Fortin of her strong effort. "At the beginning of the bike I had no legs because I could not warm up before the race, but as the race was going I felt better. Running is my strength and I did a good job of it today.
"I’m just racing two and a half years so I’m just a beginner," added Fortin. "I’m just learning all the things, but I just love it."
In the end, the penalty changed Fortin’s fate and she wound up in third. Heather Gollnick (USA) was bumped up to second with a time of 4:33.05, and Amanda Gillam (USA) and Dede Griesbauer (USA) filled in the top five, finishing in 4:38.20 and 4:38.44, respectively.
Vato vaults to the front
After marking the day’s fastest swim, 21:56, and bike, 2:15.59, relative newcomer Pete Jacobs (AUS) stepped off the bike two-and-a-half minutes in the lead over Vato. While his 1:21.13 run could hardly be called shlepping it out, Jacobs wasn’t strong enough to hold off his pursuer.
"I haven’t done too much running the last three weeks because I wasn’t too well a few weeks ago, so I just didn’t have the pace,” said Jacobs. “I had the pace for consistency, I just didn’t have the pace Michael was running.
"Only when I turned around here at halfway someone told me he was 45 seconds behind me," added Jacobs about when he felt the pressure from Lovato. "That kind of shocked me. I wasn’t ready for that."
He shouldn’t have been shocked by lanky Lovato’s speed, though. After all, the American ran a 1:18.12 half-marathon at April’s California Half-Ironman and a 2:47.53 marathon, on July 4th, at Challenge Roth, against the world’s best Germans and Aussies.
"When they told me I was 2:40 down and then I quickly got the splits down to two minutes down, I knew that I was taking good time out of him so I knew if I could keep going strong through out the first half that I would catch him," Lovato pointed out. "I caught him just after that — about the halfway point — and he sort of came with me for a bit and I just ran hard.
"I had a horrible swim," explained Lovato. "I felt horrible after about 300 meters,” said Lovato of his swim. “That was definitely a low for me. The bike was fun. I mean I like a hilly course so I felt pretty good. I was able to ride a steady, even ride and I felt the best on the run."
The Aussie finished second, impressively, in 4:00.48. Todd Wiley (USA) was third, in 4:07.03, and Tony Delonge (USA) and Sergio Marques (POR) rounded out the top five, in 4:07.03 and 4:11.24, respectively.
Marques, recently crowned Europe’s Under-23 champion and 17th overall at the long-distance triathlon world championships, had the fastest run split of the day, 1:16.13.
In addition to attracting some of the world’s best pro triathletes, the Timberman Triathlon Festival featured about two dozen vendors at the two-day expo, a pro athlete question-and-answer session on Saturday afternoon, Friday night dinner with keynote speaker Gollnick, Saturday night dinner with keynote speaker Smyers, and a pancake breakfast. New Hampshire rock band Phil N’the Blanks played at both races, costumed volunteers manned aid stations on Sunday, and the post-race celebrations included pizza parties and barbecues.
“We want our age-groupers to get their money’s worth and have a fantastic time. Timberman is a peak for many of our athletes and we want them to know it’s our peak, too,” said Jordan.
Timberman Triathlon was voted 2003’s Best Large Triathlon in the U.S. It’s also the biggest race of the Audi allroad quattro Series, USA Triathlon’s New England Long Course Championship, a qualifier for the new U.S. Half Triathlon Championship, and a qualifier for the USAT National Age-Group Championship and International Triathlon Union (ITU) 2005 Long Course World Championships. Additionally Timberman Half-Iron Triathlon is a qualifying race for Ironman Florida and Ironman Canada.
Sponsors include Audi, Laconia Athletic and Swim Club, Fuel Belt, Final Kick Sports, Eastern Mountain Sports, Carb-BOOM Energy Gels, Clif Bar, Orca Wetsuits, Aegis Bicycles, Zoot Sports, Nutfield Spring Water, New Balance, Melnick's Shoe and Athletic Center, MetroCast Cablevision, Lakes Region Cyclery, TriathlonBag, Stonyfield Farm Yogurt, Coors Light, Green Mountain Coffee, Vital Kneads Institute of Massage Therapy, Lakes Region Volkswagen-Audi, The Citizen Newspaper, Rutter Media, Triathlete Magazine, Laconia Savings Bank, Village Bank and Trust, Jackson's Star Market, Pike Industries, Tracings Graphics and Screen Printing. For More information, contact www.timbermantri.com.
TIMBERMAN TRIATHLON (1.9 km S/90 km B/21.1 km R)
Sunday, 22 August 2004, Laconia, NH USA
1 Michael Lovato (USA) 24:07 2:16:22 24.6 1:16:30 5:51 3:58:31
2 Pete Jacobs (AUS) 21:56 2:15:59 24.7 1:21:13 6:12 4:00:48
3 Todd Wiley (USA) 23:57 2:19:33 24.1 1:22:11 6:17 4:07:03
4 Tony Delonge (USA) 24:17 2:16:14 24.7 1:27:23 6:41 4:11:06
5 Sergio Marques (POR) 25:25 2:26:59 22.9 1:16:13 5:50 4:11:24
1 Karen Smyers (USA) 26:31 2:29:12 22.5 1:34:38 7:14 4:31:53
2 Heather Gollnick (USA) 25:36 2:35:13 21.6 1:30:46 6:56 4:33:05
3 Veronique Fortin (CAN) 27:04 2:34:34 21.7 1:28:21 6:45 4:35:28 (4:00)
4 Amanda Gillam (USA) 27:50 2:36:49 21.4 1:30:29 6:56 4:38:20
5 Dede Griesbauer (USA) 23:32 2:37:33 21.3 1:34:22 7:13 4:38:44