APPLEGATE LAKE — Competitors from Bend and Klamath Falls claimed the top podium spots Saturday at the seventh annual Granite Man Triathlon at Applegate Lake.
For women's winner Shon Rae, victory came as a surprise that had nothing to do with her effort.
"There were two women in front of me, but I guess they were relay runners," said Rae, shortly after finishing what was her second off-road triathlon in a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 8 seconds.
Team and individual competitors dived into the lake together and swam three-quarters of a mile, followed by a 13-mile mountain bike ride and 5-mile run on trails and roads that circled the lake.
After a self-described difficult swim where she had trouble seeing the buoy, Rae came upon another surprise during the bike leg when she came across a rider who had fallen off the trail.
"A couple of us stopped and pulled him back on the trail," Rae said.
As this was her first trip to Southern Oregon, Rae had scouted the race in advance and rode many of the corners conservatively.
"It's nice to have a little gravel road to catch your breath," said Rae. "My strongest leg is probably mountain bike."
The hardest part of this race was finding the time to train. Rae works full-time for a home construction company and is a single mother. She has two more off-road triathlons scheduled on her 2013 race calendar.
For three-time defending champion Melyssa Glatte, a second-place finish Saturday meant that a 2014 comeback will be less stressful.
"Now I know I can come back next year and not be as nervous," Glatte explained. "When I show up all I get is, 'Are you going to win again?' That's a lot of pressure."
Glatte had scouted the competition and knew that Rae was the one to watch.
"She was out of the water long before me," laughed Glatte. "I knew where her bike was and it was gone when I got there."
Though Glatte had the fastest leg in the running portion of the triathlon, she still ended up more than three minutes behind Rae, in 2:12:55.
Men's individual triathlon winner Josh Nelson returned to triathlon competition this year after competing many years ago in the junior division. Coming out of the water in fifth place, he knew he had his work cut out for him.
Fortunately, said Nelson, "The bike and run are my stronger sports. I passed three or four guys on the bike and caught the second place guy on the run."
After posting a 1:53:26 winning time, Nelson is now looking ahead to running ultramarathons. His next two races will be in Ashland.
"I'm training for S.O.B. 50K and the Pine to Palm 100-miler," said Nelson.
Though running has been his avocation for many years, it has recently turned into a career as well for Nelson and his wife, Jill.
"We've been teaching yoga for the past two years," said Nelson. "We just opened up a running and yoga store in Klamath Falls: Asana Running & Sole."
Athletes in the duathlon division raced the same 13-mile mountain bike and 5-mile running course as the triathletes. Bicycle riders started at 60-second intervals to avoid pileups early on. The first starter was 2010 duathlon winner, Doug Striley, a long-time bicycle competitor from Jacksonville.
"I didn't see anyone for the whole race," Striley explained. "I've taken a first, second and third so I'm super happy to be back here and not wrecking."
Striley was not able to compete in 2011 because of a bicycle wreck the week before the 2011 race. His winning time of 1:32:47 was 46 seconds off his second place 2010 finish, and well ahead of his 2008 victory in the duathlon.
Of running, Striley said, "I'm mainly a bike guy but I love running, it's just a challenge getting my body to love it."
Women's duathlon winner Natasha Churchill tackled her first bicycle race only last month. She rode this course for her first time during the race.
"The biking was super scary, there were places you could fall right into the lake there wasn't even a cliff," said Churchill, "it was right in to the lake."
Though the Hornbrook, Calif., resident doesn't race much, physical fitness is a key part of her career.
"I'm a personal trainer," said Churchill. "I do a three-tier, holistic program, which includes nutritional guidance, emotional guidance and some physical training."
Churchill's business appears to be doing well. She brought 18 of her Siskiyou County clients with her to compete in several of the Granite Man races.
Children under 13 had an opportunity to compete as well in shortened duathlon and triathlon races Saturday that started shortly after the adult races. A record 303 competitors registered for Granite Man races this year, up from 280 last year, according to race director Chad Wikander.
The Granite Man weekend finishes up today with a 10-mile Mountain Run that includes a difficult climb to the top of Collings Mountain.
Full results are posted online at http://onlineraceresults.com/event/view_event.php?event_id=10949
MEN — 1. Josh Nelson, 35, 1:53:26; 2. Chris Meddings, 31, 1:55:57; 3. Erik Hefflefinger, 24, 1:58:47; 4. Benjamin Grable, 34, 2:06:26; 5. Scott Feldman, 24, 2:06:47.
WOMEN — 1. Shon Rae, 41, 2:09:08; 2. Melyssa Glatte, 44, 2:12:55; 3. Ryan Hungerford, 38, 2:26:08; 4. Shellie Heggenberger, NA, 2:31:24; 5. Sarah Siewert, 36, 2:35:27.
MEN — 1. Doug Striley, 43, 1:32:47; 2. Jean Philippe-Jestin, 32, 1:41:23; 3. Tyrone Raber, 35, 1:42:26; 4. Josh Offord, 40, 1:48:27; 5. William Gabriel, 40, 1:50:36.
WOMEN — 1. Natasha Churchill, 37, 2:01:25; 2. Teri Calison, 42, 2:03:21; 3. Shannon Crosier, 42, 2:30:18; 4. Ashley Teren, 40, 2:42:42
Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. You can reach him at email@example.com