Text and images © 2006 John B. Blackford. Do not reproduce without express written permission. All rights reserved.
Just a Triathlon in the Park
Over 700 compete in Nockamixon USTA-sanctioned event

by John Blackford

          The first group of contestants pushed into the waters of Lake Nockamixon at 7:00 am July 16, kicking off the 2nd Annual Lehigh Valley Steelman Triathlon. Many groups followed, each with color-coded rubber caps.

          Contestants also wore strap-on sensors that talked wirelessly to six large rubber mats placed at the beginning and end of each of the three events—swimming, biking, and running. Within an hour after the race, the computerized system had spit out a printed list of winners in every category, complete with exact times for each contestant.

          The Olympic Triathlon contestants started first, followed at 7:30 am by Sprint Triathlon racers, said organizer Paul Shrivastava, who teaches event management at Bucknell.

          The Olympic event is 0.9 miles swimming, 24.8 miles biking, and 6.2 miles running, for a total distance of 31.9 miles. The Sprint distances are half that, 0.5, 12, and 3.1 miles, respectively

          Swimmers rounded a buoy and returned, then crossed a second mat and jogged into a huge bike parking lot, called the transition area, where each grabbed his or her bike from its assigned place, walked it out, and crossed a third mat before peddling off.

          On returning from the bike course along Rt. 563, each contestant walked the bike back to its spot, donned running shoes, and hit the course marked out from the park’s 26 miles of trails. Time in transition figured into the total score.

          After the run, contestants crossed the final mat, deposited their wireless sensors in a box, and headed for a tent filled with water, juice, fruit, pasta, and ice-cold towels. As runners started coming in, dousing themselves with bottled water, stacks of pizzas showed up—and the  event commentator suggested these were the right stuff for triathletes. Most did grab a slice.

          Of nearly 800 who signed up, 309 Olympic and 421 Sprint entrants actually started; of those, five to seven percent did not finish, said Shrivastava.

          However, the event was nearly accident-free, according to Bruse Ogilvie, an emergency worker from Grand View Hospital, of Sellersville, Pa. Ogilvie, on-duty in the tent, said there’d been one bike accident involving minor lacerations, but otherwise the main challenge was dehydration, which water and plenty of iced towels kept at bay.

          Contestants were generally in remarkable shape, and even those who suffered mishaps bounced right back. One woman collapsed at the finish line and was carried into the tent; five minutes later, she was sitting up chatting.

          For those of us who’d have trouble biking 25 miles in four hours, the final times were astounding: The male Olympic winner, Charles Sperazza, did the entire course in 2:14:21. The female Olympic winner, Katrina Dowidchuk, clocked in at 2:29:41. That’s 31.9 miles in just over two hours.

          Seventeen-year-old Andrew Yoder won the male Sprint at 1:03:53, and Cynthia Long won the women’s at 1:17:10. Yoder, in other words, completed the Sprint course at about 15 miles per hour. Yoder said he’s won similar events, so he may be destined for great things.

          There were also relays for both the Olympic and Sprint Triathlons. The Olympic relay winners were The Spartan Men (Curran McCready, swim; Matt Babiarz, cycle; Erik Uliasz, run). The Sprint relay was won by Team Slenker (Mike Slenker, swim; Greg Yatko, cycle; Eric Yatko, run).

          First, second, and third place was also awarded by age group, adding up to a lot of statues. The oldest Sprint contestant, 74-year-old Huston Schlosser, won the 70-74 group with a time of 2:37:16. The oldest Olympic, 66-year-old Joseph O’Donnell, won the 65-69 group at 3:17.44. That’s nearly 10 mph over 31.9 miles for O’Donnell. Sperazza, the Olympic winner, did better than 14 mph.

          So, at the end of the day, these folks aren’t like you and me…they’re fast and durable.

          Despite some headaches, park manager George Calaba hopes to do it all over again next year. Forget that power went out the night before and he was up ‘till 2:00 am rounding up generators. Calaba said the Triathlon is a great event for the park he loves, all 2,200 acres of it.

          This event was larger than last year’s, held in Allentown. In fact, things went so well that both Calaba and Shrivastava think they have a shot at making this the site for the nationals next year—right in Nockamixon Park.

Athletes queue up for the facilities
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2nd Annual Lehigh Valey Steelman Triathlon at Nockamixon Park
Waiting for the first bike in
The bike park
Second-place Olympic winner Brian Lovett
A sprint to the finish line
Women's Sprint(l-r) Barb Seiden, 3d; Cynthia Long, 1st; Michelle Duplinsky, 2nd
Riders dismount and walk their bikes into the transition area; then run out
A contestant collapsed at the finish line but was soon okay.
The men’s Sprint winner, Andrew Yoder (left), of Columbia, Pa
There were plenty of prizes to go around.