Talent and elite-level training no doubt helped Jacob Rhyner win the long course race Saturday at the 2010 Waupaca Area Triathlon.
But he had luck to thank for getting him into the event after it filled to capacity Aug. 2.
By that date, Rhyner had nearly completed a two-week stint at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The 26-year-old former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse harrier and Medford High School swimmer attended the camp as one of a select few collegiate athletes who showed promise as competitive triathletes.
After leaving the training camp in early August, Rhyner discovered three female co-workers at Health Solutions in Sheboygan already registered for the race in Waupaca. They persuaded him to join them.
But by the time he called the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce to sign up, the long course had reached its 600-competitor cap before race day for the second straight year. Rhyner’s name was added to a waiting list – fourth on a list that grew to 30 people waiting for openings in the long course. Another 60 could only hope for starting spots in the short course, which hit its 300-racer cap July 30.
The day before the race, Rhyner called the chamber again and was told a triathlete in the third wave had called to say he couldn’t make it. And since the three people on the waiting list ahead of Rhyner had made other plans for the weekend, the spot was his.
Lynn Tolle of the chamber said Rhyner is one of only a handful of people for whom she was able to find room after the race filled.
“I hope this convinces folks to sign up early next year,” she said.
Though he did not join the elite triathletes in the first wave to hit Shadow Lake, Rhyner completed his half-mile swim in 11:37. Two others swam faster than Rhyner, but his two closest rivals swam nearly three minutes slower.
He then blazed the 19.4-mile bike course in 47:34, the second-fastest time of the day, and then extended his lead with a blazingly fast 16:38 5K run. Rhyner’s total time of 1:17:19 put him nearly seven minutes ahead of Aaron Koehler, 30, of Minneapolis, who edged out Jack Dudley, 29, of Madison by 47 seconds.
So after only a year as an amateur triathlete, it should come as no surprise Rhyner is already contemplating turning pro.
Since the Waupaca Area Triathlon is the only such event Jackie Hatherly does all summer, she plans for it. That approach led the 45-year-old to her third long course win.
She won the race in 2007 and 2008, but did not attend last year to defend her title. Two weeks ago, she and her husband, Chris Gdanski, came down from Oakville, Ontario, where they live, to stay with family in the Waupaca area. They biked the 100-mile route of the inaugural 100-mile John Hatherly Mid Century Ride, a charity road ride around Waupaca (including a portion of the triathlon course), named after her brother, with whom they stayed on Long Lake. Hatherly and Gdanski returned to Canada for the week between the events.
Hatherly said she was pleased with her victory – specifically her personal best time on the bike leg – until she learned the bike course was about a half-mile shorter due to a reroute away from County Road E and onto East Road south to Crystal Lake Road. The change was made to avoid rough pavement on County E.
“East Road has a shady canopy and rolls nicely,” said Gdanski, who completed the long course as well. Hatherly agreed and added, “If I had a vote, I’d like to see this course stay. I like it a lot better.”
Hatherly won the women’s race by putting in a sub-12 minute swim, a 51:56 bike ride and a 22:55 5K run. Her margin of victory was 3:18 over Sarah Stumpf, 43, of Oneida. Stumpf placed second last year as well and third in 2008 and 2007. This year, April Beard, 32, of Madison took third, trailing Stumpf by 43 seconds.
Scattered among the individual long course competitors were 44 relay teams of two or three women, men, co-ed teams and teams vying for “best of Waupaca” bragging rights. In the latter category, Team Sheer Speed is Back (made up of Plunkett family members) took the top prize from Team Rathjen-Sletten (led by its two namesake ThedaCare-Waupaca physicians) by a margin of just 28 seconds. For full results, go to www.waupacaareatriathlon.com.
Just as the kids’ triathlon was about to get under way Friday evening, thunderstorms hit to the west and east of Waupaca. A delay was contemplated by the organizers, but local radar confirmed that South Park was not in the path of more than a little rain. Some 250 youth, ages 4-10, were none the wiser judging by their smiles and their parents’ display of pride.
By comparison, perfect weather greeted the adult triathletes Saturday morning. Several participants noted the cool temps, lack of wind and light drizzle out on the course.
The top two male finishers of the short course – comprised of a quarter-mile swim, 12.5-mile bike and two-mile run – were veterans of five or more long course races in Waupaca.
After a two-year absence, Robb Johnson, 44, of West Bend won his first short course race in 54:18. He managed to complete each leg and get through the transitions 20 seconds faster than Mark Meyer, 45, of Neenah. Then, Johnson put two 5:15 miles back to back that Meyer, running at a 6-minute per mile pace, couldn’t match.
Johnson said he had intended to do the race with his 13-year-old daughter before she backed out. It was still a family affair, as four other families from the neighborhood in West Bend came and camped at Hartman Creek State Park, as they do every year the night before the triathlon.
Laurie Ramich, 42, of Neenah defended her title as the women’s winner of the 2009 short course. Her time of 1:01:44 was 14 seconds faster than last year.
Coming in 48 seconds later was 34-year-old Sara Thomas of Sun Prairie, followed two minutes by Kayla Beckwith, 19, of Middleton.
10th anniversary noted
As this was the event’s 10th anniversary, triathletes who had participated every year received a commemorative glass mug at the awards ceremony. At a party earlier in the week, volunteers who had helped since the beginning were given mugs, too.
Gift certificates from the chamber worth $50 at Waupaca area businesses were also awarded to the triathletes who finished 10th, 110th, 210th , 310th, 410th and so forth to further celebrate the milestone.
Bonny Scharine of Fremont recalled becoming a triathlete in Waupaca a decade ago. She credited the seminars held weeks before the first couple events with giving her the confidence to take part.
“The workshops were very helpful, both the instruction and encouragement they provided,” she said. “Many of us went even though we hadn’t made up our minds to do the triathlon, but the speakers made it sound very doable and fun.”
Joel Patenaude serves on the Waupaca Area Triathlon Board of Directors.