by Ron Adkins
It’s 4:17am on Sunday, July 31.
My colleague, Dennis Green, and I are on the road to the 2016 Bluff Creek Triathlon at Don Williams State Park near Ogden, Iowa.
We’ve been heading west on Highway 30 for half an hour and have encountered maybe three other vehicles in the pre-dawn morning. Dennis yawns, looks out at the blankets of fog covering the hollows and valleys, and gives voice to something we’d both been pondering:
What drives people to get up long, long before sunrise to do a triathlon?
Will Gallagher, a high school senior from St. Michael, Minnesota, races because “they’re super fun! The races are always a good environment and the people are great.” Will was being aggressively recruited by the Iowa State University triathlon team as he waited to board the shuttle bus to the swim start. They were confident they could make him a Cyclone next year.
(more Bluff Creek pictures)
Will’s biggest motivator to race triathlons like Bluff Creek, though, is undoubtedly the devotion of his father, Bill Gallagher. He happily escorts his son to every race, finds a good place to sit where he can cheer Will on when he passes, and chats with other families. “I motivate him during the race, I guess, but he is my daily motivation. Period,” says a justifiably proud Bill. “I love to watch him swim, especially,” he adds.
For race director Alex Syhlmann, what gets him up countless mornings to organize, coordinate, set up, take down, and time triathlons is the sheer fun of the whole process. “It’s the best rush I know watching athletes do well and cross the finish line with a smile.”
Alex recently left his day job to devote his full attention to producing and timing races.
“Now, I say ‘I get to,’ rather than, ‘I have to.’ go to work.”
Some outstanding triathletes were extremely motived to cross the Bluff Creek finish line. Congratulations to female Sprint winner Melanie Kraft, finishing with an outstanding 1:12:33. Top male Sprint honors went to Lincoln Murdoch, with a 1:08:20. (Learn more about Lincoln and his incredible season in a related article.)
Brian Norbert was the top finisher in the Para Triathlon, coming across the line with a 1:19:41.
Top Sprint Aquabike honors went to Zoe Sirotiak with an amazing 52:05, and Curtis Anderson with a 1:09:40.
In the Olympic category, Madeleine Pesch crossed the line first for the women with a 2:22:27.
Sean and Ethan Austin (center) with Brad Woodford (l.) and Christopher Bell (r.)
Sean Austin notched his second Heart of America series victory of the season, adding the Bluff Creek crown to his Quad Cities win in 2:10:07, but marked an important first as well. This was his first race since the birth of his son Ethan, who accompanied him to the podium.
Complete race results can be found at www.truetimeracing.com.
As always, congratulations to all the triathletes who competed in the 2016 Bluff Creek Tri. For whatever reasons motivate them, they succeeded brilliantly.
And what, you might ask, motivates us, the humble announcers, to rise early all triathlon season?
Dennis Green has announced triathlons for the past 21 years. He has become as recognizable a fixture at Heart of America races as many of the elite racers.
“I’ve watched great athletes begin and end their careers in that time,” he jokes. “But what keeps me doing this is that I love to tell the stories of all the athletes who compete. Not just the elite athletes but the regular folks who are doing this for maybe the first time, or as a personal challenge, or in honor of someone. That’s the best part of it all.”
All the wonderful people make it worth every effort.