By Jay Prasuhn
Spring 2005 – So much for “sunny and 72.”
Southern California’s infamously welcoming year-round climate would offer quite the opposite March 19th at the 2005 Ralph’s Half Ironman Triathlon in Oceanside, California. Colorado’s contingency, like many, fell victim to cold, windy rainy conditions that surprised much of the entire field. In fact, athletes waiting for their swim start wave at the Oceanside Harbor boat ramp were greeted by a five-minute deluge when the sky opened. It would only set the stage, as athletes were greeted by more showers, wet roads and gusty conditions on the bike, and even more spotty but heavy downpours on the half marathon.
Underdressed for the conditions, many shivered through the day. Legend Fernanda Keller would go on to say it was the worst race of her career. Aussie Luke McKenzie dropped out to a cold-weather-exacerbated tight back. Canadian Lisa Bentley would shake through the bike, mustering an uncharacteristic seventh place finish. Heather Gollnick, Joanna Zeiger, all names that would normally be leading the day, faltered. Many others echoed the sentiment. “It sucked,” said Zeiger afterward, mincing no words.
But for Zeiger and fellow Boulderites Michael and Amanda Lovato, they soldiered on. Not to earth-shattering finishes, but finishes all the same. “That was one tough day out there–for everyone,” Amanda Lovato, shaking her head after the race after recording a 17th-place finish. It was a vast understatement.
To be fair, the Camp Pendleton Marines were again gracious hosts on the bike course, standing under the rain, dressed in fatigues and offering encouragement as they offered handoffs at aid stations on the bike course’s barren backside. It was Mother Nature that wasn’t so kind.
Among the women, it was 2002 ITU short course world champ Leanda Cave of Great Britain making an early statement in exiting the water first in 24:08 . Zeiger was out in second off Cave’s feet by just a second.
Zeiger’s day would backfire from the outset. Tagged with a stagger penalty early in the bike, she was forced to a stand down, which summarily caused a drop in her core body temperature as well as dropping her from contact with the leaders. “By the time I got going again, I was so cold,” Zeiger said. “That was pretty much my race.”
At the front, it was another ITU convert, Canadian Olympian Samantha McGlone who would surprise the field. McGlone, training in Tucson with her coach, Cliff English, decided just ten days before the race to enter. The decision turned into a wise one as the day developed. McGlone, tailed by defending race champ Michellie Jones, passed the fast-fading Cave in the last five miles, then strode away from Jones early in the run to take the win. Jones would eventually finish third, passed midway through the run by duathlete-turned-triathlete Desiree Ficker. Ficker has clearly made the jump to triathlon, posting a 26-minute swim that had her at the front of the race and pacing the likes of Jones and McGlone from the outset.
The men’s race saw much of the same decimation among the elite field. Typically in the mix at the front of affairs at any distance event, Michael Lovato was well out of the game, over 15 minutes behind the race-leading duo of Torbjorn Sindballe and Chris Lieto. It was a position he was unaccustomed to, and again, the cold conditions were to blame.
“My legs were cramping so bad,” Lovato said. “I felt fine during the swim and had a great run, but on the bike, it was so cold out there, I just couldn’t generate any power. It was a weird feeling to just have nothing there.”
Once off the bike, Lovato rebounded from the soggy ride to record the day’s second-fastest half-marathon (bested only by Sindballe) to finish 11th. After the battle on the bike, Sindballe tapped away from Lieto along the damp cement Oceanside boardwalk to record the only sub-four-hour day and win his second title in Oceanside in 3:59:58.
1. Torbjorn Sindballe Denmark 23:46 / 2:17:33 / 1:14:36 / 3:59:58
2. Chris Lieto Danville, CA 24:40 / 2:15:16 / 1:20:25 / 4:04:28
3. Timo Bracht Germany 24:37 / 2:21:17 / 1:17:19 / 4:07:13
4. Richie Cunningham Germany 23:36 / 2:23:21 / 1:17:24 / 4:07:56
5. Luke Dragstra Canada 24:13 / 2:21:44 / 1:18:50 / 4:08:50
11. Michael Lovato Boulder 24:43 / 2:32:29 / 1:14:53 / 4:16:43
1. Samantha McGlone Canada 26:00 / 2:35:12 / 1:22:34 / 4:28:15
2. Desiree Ficker Austin 26:02 / 2:36:26 / 1:24:54 / 4:31:28
3. Michellie Jones Australia 25:30 / 2:37:19 / 1:26:10 / 4:32:44
4. Alexis Waddell Carmel CA 26:26 / 2:43:09 / 1:25:05 / 4:39:08
5. Kate Major Australia 28:07 / 2:44:16 / 1:23:42 / 4:40:45
6. Joanna Zeiger Boulder 24:09 / 2:44:37 / 1:27:43 / 4:40:52
10. Nicole DeBoom Lyons 24:58 / 2:44:12 / 1:30:58 / 4:44:58
17. Amanda Lovato Boulder 29:12 / 2:49:06 / 1:31:01 / 4:54:43
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