By Matthew Digiacomo
WOODCOCK TOWNSHIP —
It seems each and every year there is something to talk about at the Dam Tri. So why should year No. 5 be any different?
The fifth annual Dam Tri was once again a success thanks to the organizers and the competitors. When the smoke had cleared, four new champions were crowned and one of them went the extra mile to get the job done.
“When we got to the turn, they thought we were running the Olympic race,” said 17-year-old Pittsburgh native Dan Mehan. “I went about 1/2 mile before I figured it out and went back. At the time I was in second and the guy in front of me went a bit farther than I did. So, it kind of helped me.”
Despite that little twist of fate, Mehan blistered the tough course around Woodcock Lake.
How bad did Mehan torch the course? In 2009 — the first running of the Dam Tri — John Trucilla of Erie completed the course in 59:12. That was the only time a competitor had broke the one-hour mark in the previous four years of the event. Mehan not only broke an hour, he smashed the course record with a time of 58:16.
“I was real pleased with my time,” said Mehan. “I will probably be back next year, and maybe even run the Olympic Distance.”
About 10 minutes after Mehan crossed the line, the top Sprint Division woman clocked in. Gianna Guerino took that honor with a time of 1:09:52.
It took almost another hour before the top Olympic competitors broke the tape.
For the men, it was Columbus, Ohio native John Lowrey with a time of 2:06:31. Lowrey, 22, is a member of Eleanor Rocks, as is Dam Tri race director Kristoph Kocan. Eleanor Rocks is an organization that raises money to help families with terminally ill children. The organization founder’s daughter, Eleanor, was born with congenital heart failure and the organization’s trademark is donating rocking chairs. Eleanor Rocks led Lowrey to the Dam Tri.
“I found out about it through Eleanor Rocks,” said Lowrey. “I am a grad student at Ohio State studying food science and technology. I began running triathlons in 2008 and really started taking it serious in 2011. I am glad I found this event and I will definitely be back.”
As will women Olympic distance champ Desiree Thomas.
Thomas, originally from Broadview Heights, Ohio, is a 2010 graduate of Edinboro University. She ran her first triathlon shortly after graduation and has been hooked ever since. It took three years, but she finally climbed to the top of the Dam Tri.
“I was second last year," said Thomas. "So I made winning a goal this year. Usually, I am the first out of the lake because I swam at Edinboro. Then I have to hope no one passes me on the bike and survive the run.”
She did both flawlessly this time around. In fact, the 25-year-old was never threatened as she completed the course in 2:25:59. It marks the third year she lowered her time. Thomas clocked in at 2:45:56 in 2011 and then completed the course in 2:32:43 last year. And like just about everyone else you talk to at the Dam Tri, Thomas plans to be back in 2014, only this time to defend her title.
“You bet,” said Thomas. “I have done it the last thre years and will be back again. I love the course because it is challenging, but fun.”
And that was the biggest winner for the day — the course.
While most of the course remained unchanged, there were some adjustments made to the run — and the Mehan detour does not count. The adjustments really added a downhill feel to the end of the race, helping a lot more competitors finish the event. Thomas went as far as to say she thought it helped her maintain her lead.
“I thought the lake was fantastic,” said Lowrey. “It sits down in a valley, so there is not a lot of wind and waves. Instead of fighting through the swim, you can really stretch out and enjoy it.”
Mehan pointed out some of the difficulties.
“That first hill on the run,” he said. “You come in off the bike, get through the transition jog through a couple turns and then it seems like it is straight uphill. That is a killer.”
The good, the bad, the easy and the hard all led to another successful event. In total, 307 competitors came out to test their endurance in and around Woodcock Lake. And while not everyone walked away with a prize, or even the time they wanted, they did all leave with a smile.
“It is that comraderie,” said Lowrey. “Everyone is introducing themselves to each other, giving tips and pointers. Everybody wants to win, but it is not a cut-throat sport. That is one of the things that really drew me to it.”