1998 USA Triathlon
National LC Championships, Lubbock, TX
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||AG Triathlete Home
Mike and Marti Greer threw a Texas-style barbecue
to decide USAT's national champions and qualify the few for October's roast in Kona.
An information kiosk at the Lubbock, Texas airport welcomes
visitors to the "legendary" town and urges them to check out the Cactus Theatre
on Buddy Holly Avenue or the annual Chuck Wagon Gathering at the Ranching Heritage Center.
There is no mention of the event Marti and Mike Greer would like to become legendary, the
Buffalo Springs Lake Half Ironman Triathlon.
Troy Jacobson wraps up the last miles of his bike.
|An honest race
Site of USA Triathlons 1998 Long
Course Championships June 28, Buffalo Springs was also host to one of the most honest
Hawaii Ironman qualifiers you could ever expect to find. The race is built around the kind
of challenges many long-course devotees find appealing and others find grisly. Just the
combination that builds legends. And, if the purpose of a Hawaii qualifier is to test
someones capability for surviving cruel bikes and punishing runs, this years
race fit the bill well.
Flying into Lubbock leaves athletes new to Buffalo Springs innocently
unaware of what is to come. A landscape that at first glance appears two dimensional
conceals a series of shallow canyons and hills that form the nucleus of what pro Troy
Jacobson calls "one of the toughest Ironman qualifiers" around. Known as one of
the best half Ironman athletes in the country, Jacobson ran down James Bonney to post the
fast time of the day and win his third consecutive long-course championship in 4:08:20.
|Texas, where hills are
Race founder and promoter Mike Greer and
his newly anointed race director wife Marti love the toughness of the race he created. In
fact Greers pre-race admonitions to athletes included a friendly threat to modify
the 56-mile bike course to accommodate yet another hill. "The hills here are really
hills," said 75-79 winner Bill Schweizer, 7:02:56. "You had to work. You had
that hot wind coming back; that made it more difficult." Schweizer started in the
first wave with the pros. "The swim was the easiest part," he said. "It was
a beautiful swim. The water was calm; the water was the right temperature for a
Spring fed Buffalo Springs Lake is a refreshing oasis in the middle of
Texas cotton country. Resting in the bottom of a small ravine, the water is chilly enough
to warrant wetsuits and presented racers with an ironically cool start to one of the
hottest events of the year. With West Texas in a drought and temperatures bursting well
into the 100s, the Greers wisely opted to move this years wave starts up to sunrise.
In the process they may have prevented the med tent from blowing up with the heat.
James Bonney held the lead through most of the run.
Amy McGrath posted the fastest women's time of
Carey Guerreo jumped from the Florida
fires into the Texas frying pan to win the age group overall masters title.
|Into the Texas heat
The early start also gave athletes time to
reflect upon the rising sun. By the time the first cyclists began climbing the 200 or so
meters out of their shady little swim venue the sun was climbing well above the horizon.
The first hill, far from extreme but annoyingly early, inspired some
ragged shifting and sent a few riders weaving to maintain balance. The slow bike start
also gave people time to contemplate the seven real hills that awaited in the
canyons ten miles down the road.
Even in this years stifling summer heat, the hilly bike was not
the most difficult part of Buffalo Springs. "The bike wasnt that bad,"
said Long Course Champion Jo Garuccio, 45-49, 5:17:46. "Youre moving enough to
keep cool on the bike. But the run was hot."
The 13.1-mile run also begins by climbing out of the lake basin, but
this time there are two hills. Athletes who began the race day in 70-degree weather were
confronted with a105-degree furnace by run time--15 degrees above Lubbocks average.
Unofficial reports from the run course had asphalt temperatures bouncing above the 110
mark by early afternoon. According to Marti Greer, only one person hauled off the course
ended up in the hospital, an age grouper suffering from heat stroke. Greer expected the
racer to recover.
Although Jacobsons pro win was also the fastest mens time of
the day, such was not the case for the women. Pro competitor Laurie Abrams victory
over a small three-woman elite field in 4:52:27 was not quick enough for the fastest
female time at Lubbock; that honor went to Amy McGrath. McGrath, racing as an age grouper,
turned in a time of 4:50:14 to win the overall AG competition. The age group men
challenged the elite field too. Chris Eschbach took the mens AG overall in 4:13:11,
a time that would have landed him in third place among the pros.
Carey Guerrero, coming off a third-place
finish at USATs National Championships in Clermont, Florida a week earlier, put her
heat training to good use by capturing the Female Masters Overall title in 5:07:42, a time
that would have placed her seventh womens age grouper overall. Mac Martin finished
as top Male Master in 4:34:51.
Although Buffalo Springs served as
USATs National Long Course Championships and one of two national events qualifying
racers to attend the ITU World Long Course party scheduled for September in Sato, Japan,
the race hype revolved around Kona slots.
The post-race ritual of doling out those berths feels like a strange
mating of the lottery and a bequeathal. While most of the top finishers jump at the chance
to sweat it out on the big island, a few always elect to bestow their ticket to Kona upon
the second wave of Ironman disciples. In either case, the resulting euphoria has an
amnesic effect which momentarily blocks out the trials and tribulations of the recent
past. But those memories will return in October when the mid-afternoon sun has baked
Konas rock to rotisserie readiness, and they may carry with them a certain element
of calm. Because the veterans of Lubbock will remember that they didnt just qualify
for Ironman, they qualified at Buffalo Springs. AG
Bill Schweizer plans his route through Buffalo Springs
||LC Photo Feature