Washington-Half fun for all

Published 2:04 am Sunday, October 31, 2010

Staff Writer

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, over 130 competitors from all over the country migrated to Washington to compete and participate in one of the most grueling endurance competitions in the world, a triathlon known as the Half Ironman.
It was all smiles and fun for athletes and spectators as they enjoyed a bit of commraderie, cheering on fellow triathletes as they crossed the finish line.
The overall winner, Joel Bell, from Virginia Beach, Va. said he enjoyed the triathlon so much.
“I really had a great time,” Bell said. “The course was absolutely beautiful and the people are just so nice here. Makes me wish all places were as friendly as Washington.”
Bell had been training for the Arizona Ironman but said he did not have that much time to devote to even longer training schedules and wanted to spend his weekends at home with family.
“The swim was good, but cold, and the bike ride was smoothe and the run was nowhere near as hilly as others I’ve competed in,” he said. “But the weather was nice and I don’t think we, as competitors, could ask for a better day or place to compete.”
This was Bell’s third Half-Ironman competition.
Bruce Richter, a Grimesland native who placed second, has been training for triathlons all year long but said this was his final one for the season.
“I really got started in training for triathlons by doing long runs with my friends who were runners, and long bike rides with my friends who were cyclists,” Richter said. “I used to be a cyclist and they just shoot daggers at each other, before the race, during the race and after the race. And that is something that’s just not done with triathlon athletes. In fact, while you’re riding and if you pass someone you’re not talking junk to them, but instead cheering them on to keep up with you. There’s always that commraderie.”
John Worden, from Cary, placed third, and had been training the entire year as well, but decided to take some time off after competing in the Arizona Ironman.
“I like the course here,” he said. “It was set up really nice and I felt pretty strong all day. I just couldn’t catch Bruce. He was always about six or seven minutes in front of me and I just couldn’t catch up with him.
“And the volunteers here were just awesome. They were all over the place making for sure we didn’t go off course and making for sure we were hydrated. I would definitely come back and compete here again.”
Worden added the FS Series always sets up good races and is glad there is finally one that is so close to where he lives.
“Before you’d have to drive at least two to three hours just to get to one,” he said. “So this feels like it’s right outside your backdoor, which is great.”
Richter and Worden are not just the second and third place finishers, but are also good friends. They met while competing in an Ironman several years ago and decided to continue competing. And one thing the two say about the friendly competition is, “Though it’s a good sport, there’s always ‘smack talk’ in every sport, so no one’s exempt,” Richter said. “But there’s very little between triathlon competitors.”
“Here we are competing for first, second and third place, and we’re friends and staying at each others houses,” Worden said. “So there’s very good commraderie in the sport.
“I’m just glad he didn’t spike my coffee with Ex-Lax like he said he was going to do. I felt like I had to keep my mug in my hand at all times around this guy.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Richter said with a laugh.
On the topic of commraderie, Bell added one thing that is so great about the sport are the finishers who continue through the night.
“I can finish a full Ironman in around nine hours, but there are those that go on for 15 to 17 hours,” he said. “I couldn’t do that. They definitely deserve the medals at the end of the race.”
Bell said after he competed in an Ironman and finished, he went back to cheer on the late finishers and there were more spectators cheering them on than when he finished.
“It kind of made me jealous,” he said with a laugh. “I finished in nine hours and people were like, ‘Good job, man.’ And then eight hours later there was more support for the one’s who strove to finish all day, as well as there should’ve been. Because they were in constant motion all day long. So to me, in my eyes, they deserved the medals more than I did.”
Worden said, “It just goes to show how much support there is in this sport.”
On the local circuit, Robin Clarke, Rod Cantrell and Jenna Riggs were the only relay team representing Washington as Team IBX 2+1, which stands for two women plus one man. Clarke swam, while Cantrell biked and Riggs ran anchor for the trio.
Eddie Cournoyer, another Washington native, was going to compete in the Miami, Fla. Triathlon, but could not make it down there. So instead, he decided to compete in the Washington-Half even though he was sick with pneumonia.
“I didn’t find out that I was sick until yesterday,” he said. “But I said to myself, ‘Ehh, what the hell. I’ll do it anyway.’”
Cournoyer was one of many triathletes who was not feeling 100-percent yesterday morning, but still competed. A testament to the sheer drive and competition of the athletes.
Zeno Weidenthaler, a Munich, Germany native and East Carolina University graduate-school student, has been an avid endurance and triathlon competitor for several years and said the course was fun and the weather was good in Washington.
The Washington-Half was sponsored by the Washington/Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.
If friendly competition is something you’re interested in, log onto www.fsseries.com to find out when the next endurance competition will be scheduled.
Box this:
Ironman History
What many people don’t know is the history of the Ironman, which began in 1974 in Mission Bay, San Diego, California. Several swimmers, cyclists and runners argued that their sport was the toughest and therefore made them the fittest of athletes.
The swimmers competed in Hawaii’s Waikiki Roughwater Swim, which was 2.4 miles. The cyclists competed in the Around-Oahu Bike Race (115 miles) and the runners competed in the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles.) All grueling endurance races.
However, a U.S. Navy commander, John Collins, pointed out that a Belgian cyclist had the highest recorded “maximum oxygen uptake” of any athlete ever measured. But, Collins had a card up his sleve to solve the riddle of which sport was the toughest…and combined the three into one long-distance endurance sport. Which his elite Navy SEALs and every branch of special forces trained to compete.
Collin’s said, “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!” And with a nod to a local runner who was said to be notorious for his demanding workouts, Collins said, “And whoever finishes first, we’ll call him, Ironman.”
And so began the Worldclass Ironman. Today, thousands of events and distance variations are held around the world. One of those events was held yesteray, right here in Washington.
The Washington Half-Ironman, known as the Washington-Half, is comprised of three events: a 1.2-mile open water swim, a 56-mile bike race and finally a 13.1-mile run.