Not to be outdone by the more than 500 marathon and half marathon participants in Hood River last Sunday, another group of athletes was testing a different kind of endurance extreme: The triathlon extreme.
While runners from 41 states and five countries made their way from The Dalles to Hood River, participants in the first-ever GorgeMan Half-Ironman Triathlon were testing the highways and waterways of the Gorge.
And, despite a few goosebumps from the icy Columbia River, the locals who participated came away feeling on top of the world.
“I really enjoyed the course, and would definitely do it again,” said Bill Mellow of Hood River, who was the lone finisher in the 60-and-older division.
“The water was a bit choppy and it was pretty cold, which surprised some people. But I didn’t mind it because I’m always in the water,” he said.
Mellow, 61, who is a member of the Mid Columbia Masters Swim Team, finished the GorgeMan in a time of 6 hours, 35 minutes, 5 seconds — enough to place him ahead of people half his age in the overall standings.
The best local men’s finish was turned in by Jay Clark of White Salmon, who completed the course (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1 mile run) in 5:03:15.
Leading the way for the local women was Jennifer Donnelly, who completed the course in 6:10:49. (Official results are available at www.gorgeman.com; hometowns are not listed).
Most of the event participants from Hood River chose to participate in a slightly less-extreme Super Sprint Triathlon, which took competitors on a half-mile swim, a 15-mile bike ride, and a six-mile run.
Sharing much of the terrain of the Half-Ironman course, the abbreviated Super-Sprint race offered competitors a nice early season alternative to the longer distance.
But that isn’t to say that the Super Sprint course was a walk in the park, either.
“I’m glad there was a shorter alternative because the sprint course put me to the test,” said Hood River Police Chief Tony Dirks, who finished second in the 35-39 year-old men’s division with a time of 2:30:52. “And it sure felt good to finish,” he said.
Christopher Korwin of Hood River was the only Super Sprint racer to surpass Dirks, winning the 35-39 division in 2:30:52.
Tim Rayle of Hood River placed second in the 40-44 year-old division with a time of 2:16:22, while David Barringer placed fourth in that division at 2:27:53.
Topping the list of local women finishers was Jennifer Wardell at 2:17:23, Katja Asaro at 2:24:03, Kathleen Korwin at 2:36:33, Jody Barringer at 2:55:02, and Denise Doney of Mosier at 2:48:53.
The GorgeMan and Super Sprint drew approximately 100 participants, and race organizers, X-Dog Events, are already discussing plans for 2004.
One reason the turnout was relatively small was that a larger triathlon at Blue Lake was happening the same day.
All in all, GorgeFest — the festival that encompassed the GorgeMan, Super Sprint and Gorge Marathon — drew 1,000 spectators to the Marina on Sunday, and netted an estimated $600,000 to $1 million for the local economy. GorgeFest 2004 will be nine days and will feature nine events.