First aquathlon gets thumbs up
With the September sun still climbing in a lightly-clouded sky, the inaugural “Splash and Dash” aquathlon began with a wave of competitors sprinting into the surprisingly warm embrace of Rainy Lake.
It ended with a series of memorable moments—and not just from the three category winners.
Jason Kabel topped the men’s category with a clocking of 37:40 while the duo of Melissa Belluz and Char Bliss took top honours in the team event with a combined time of 38:46.
Hawley captured the women’s crown with a comfortable 5:41 cushion over second-place Kate Nicol (39:21).
Wendy Tilbury was third (42:37).
“It’s about time we got something like this going,” said Hawley, who barely looked winded after swimming the 750m course in a sizzling 12:21 before recording a time of 21:19 in the 5K run.
“Next year we’ll hopefully have an even bigger turnout,” she added.
A total of 19 people (eight female and three male individual racers, along with four two-person teams) took up the physical challenge organized by local triathlete Jeff Tilbury and his Rainy Lake Triathlon Club committee.
“I’m happy with the turnout,” said Tilbury. “We, as the committee, got good feedback from the participants.
“It seemed like everybody enjoyed the event and had a good time.
“I don’t think we would change much with the course set-up as we got positive comments about that,” Tilbury added.
“We will maybe look at a date change,” he conceded. “We missed probably a lot of folks taking kids back to college and things like that.
“So if there is the possibility of moving into August, we would like to do that.”
Tilbury was appreciative of all the sponsors who donated to the event.
“All of the sponsors we approached were very good to us,” he declared.
Kabel, who trailed Tilbury by six seconds after the swim (13:29 compared to 13:35), quickly caught up in the early stages of the run.
He was assured victory when Tilbury, who was a last-minute entrant in “Splash and Dash,” cut his run short and ended his day with a DNF (did not finish).
Dr. Cam Moorhouse wound up second in the men’s category with a time of 42:27—almost five minutes behind Kabel.
“I wasn’t actually planning to do the race,” admitted Kabel, who also threw his name into the hat just before race time.
“I was hoping to stay on the sidelines and cheer along with everyone else.
“The swim was harder than the run,” he noted. “I haven’t been swimming at all. . . .
“Jeff’s hurting a bit. I feel bad for him,” Kabel added. “He was labouring.”
Belluz and Bliss, who dubbed their team “Fast and Fabulous,” lived up to their tongue-in-cheek self-promotion by finishing 1:20 ahead of runners-up Gina Pope and Nicole Evans.
It was Belluz who set the pace with a swim time of 16:33—57 seconds quicker than Pope.
Bliss then took over with a blazing 22:13 mark on the run to push her team to a finish time of 38:46, compared to 40:06 for Pope and Evans.
“The water was beautiful . . . not too many waves,” a smiling Belluz said after the race, her arm draped happily over the shoulder of her partner.
“We’re pretty happy,” she enthused. “It was a good challenge.”
While the winners had noteworthy performances, the stand-out images came in the form of crowd support, humour, and a last-place finisher who still was a champion in the eyes of her biggest fan.
The racers who had finished, along with the spectators who gathered, gave exuberant rounds of applause to each competitor as they finished the swim portion and then again as they sprinted across the finish line.
Karen Mitchell, who placed seventh in the women’s division (50:59), elicited cackles of laughter from onlookers as she asked in exhausted fashion: “Anyone seen a physiotherapist?” while taking her last strides of the morning.
Then there was Melissa Carpenter, who admitted beforehand to having slept very little during the week due to her nerves about doing the race.
Carpenter, the first to sign up at the pre-race registration, ended up trailing the pack the whole way.
But in a heart-warming conclusion, Carpenter’s face broke into a huge grin as she spotted her five-year-old daughter, Jamie, awaiting her near the finish line and hollering her support.
After trading a high-five, Carpenter took the youngster’s hand and the pair crossed the finish line to the roaring cheers of those assembled.
Those looking for more about the “Splash and Dash” event can visit www.rainylaketriclub.com