1,600 race at Ironman Maryland

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Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper
Tim Smith of New Zealand was the first Ironman across the line on Saturday in Cambridge, in the second running of Ironman Maryland.

CAMBRIDGE — Tim Smith of New Zealand became the first Ironman across the line on Saturday, in the second running of Ironman Maryland. Smith crossed the finish line in 8 hours, 38 minutes and 21 seconds. On his way to completion, he set the fastest bike and run times of all the competitors, after finishing eighth overall in the swim.

The first female finisher was Christina Lauer of Washington, DC, who completed the course in 9:42:56. Ms. Lauer was the 19th female to finished the swim, and then put a push on, working her way up to finishing second in the bicycle leg, and first in the run.

Approximately 1,400 racers completed the second running of Ironman Maryland, and considered themselves fortunate to even get to compete after Hurricane Joaquin forced cancellation of the event, planned two weeks earlier on Oct. 3. Immediately following the cancellation announcement local industry leaders put their heads together and started making calls to ask the question: can we try this again in two weeks? They were up against a difficult precedent, as World Triathlon Corporation, the parent company of the Ironman brand, had never re-scheduled a canceled race.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done a re-launch,” said Scott Langen, WTC’s on-site director of the event. “Once an event has been canceled, we have never had the opportunity to re-start the event. So for us, this postponement is something we’ve never done before and a pretty big undertaking. But in this case, the community is so welcoming and made it so easy to do. In Tahoe (California), we had to cancel because of fires and smoke. Usually forces of nature are what cause a cancellation, like the hurricane.”

The initial cancellation caused headaches for hundreds of the competitors who were already on site for the Oct. 3 event. All the stories before the start of Ironman Maryland were of hasty re-scheduling. The entire Puerto Rico contingent — 125 competitors — had arrived in Cambridge right before the cancellation announcement, and spent some days in town before going back home to try again in two weeks.
The delay caused a definite reduction in race starters on Saturday. The Banner talked to a spokesman for the Honduras team, who told us that 18 members of the team were in Dulles Airport when they heard of the cancellation. On their return for the re-scheduled event, there would only be five of the original 18 who could re-schedule their trip.

“We’ll see how it works out,” said WTC’s Langen. “We may have close to 1,800 racers here (for the re-scheduled event), which is huge in comparison to what it could have been, we were kind of unsure of what the numbers were going to look like for a re-launch.

“I’m glad the community allowed it. Everything had to be rescheduled, and we had to see if it all worked out with emergency management and police. It was great timing, perfect conditions to be able to allow it.”

Competitors had to contend with canceling hotel reservations that were now impossible to renew, as local hotels and motels were now dealing with other reservations for the Oct. 17 weekend. But the town rallied and found places for athletes to stay, either in neighborhood homes or more creative solutions to the problem. In the end, everyone seemed pleased with the response.

Approximately 2,500 racers were signed up for the original event, while roughly 1,600 started the competition on Saturday. From out of those numbers, a little over 1,400 finished within the total time limit.

“I have not heard a bad thing from anybody about Cambridge,” Race Director Langen told us. “The restaurants are very welcoming, the residents have all opened up their homes to the athletes, even the high school opened up for camping for the athletes. They did the same thing over at the YMCA. Cambridge has been very welcoming.”

“We are so very excited to have Ironman Maryland back, for the second time this year,” said Dorchester County Tourism Director Amanda Fenstermaker. “It’s unbelievable that they considered rescheduling the event, and we had an incredible number of athletes pick up their packets yesterday (Thursday). I’m just pleased to be here and be a part of such a great event!”

Early Saturday morning the weather didn’t appear anxious to cooperate. 15 mph winds gusting up to 30 on the open river forced a delay as Course Director Gerry Boyle orchestrated a change in layout of the swim leg of the race, to move racers further into the protected area of the river, east of Great Marsh Park. Initially it was thought the swim course would be shortened by half, from a 2.2 mile swim to 1.1, but the wind abated somewhat and the Ironman officials allowed a 3,000 meter swim rather than the full 3,800 meter swim.

The remainder of the Ironman course was used unchanged, with a 112 mile bicycle course that ran out to C-SD High School and then two loops of Maple Dam road to Gootee’s, across Smithville Road and up Route 16 back to the school, and back into town on Dailsville/Town Point road. The 2.2 mile run stayed mostly in town, running out to Riverside and across to the West Side Bypass before heading into town for the downtown turnaround.

With the wind at their backs for the longest leg of the swim, racers set a quick pace in the water, with the first competitor coming out in less than 40 minutes. Carlos Lomba of Puerto Rico was the first out of the water in 37:41. Smith finish the swim eight places back, but set a blistering time on the bike, with an average speed over 24 mph. The New Zealander kept the pace up in the run, and set the fastest time there as well. When he crossed the finish line he had nothing left, and collapsed into his wife’s arms before being lowered into a wheelchair and rolled over to the medical tent for evaluation. He was up and back at the finish line in a short while to celebrate the other finishers.

Christopher Thomas of Connecticut came in exactly 12 minutes behind Smith, for second place at 8:50:21, and Matias Palavecino of Virginia took third place with 8:51:07.

Christina Lauer took her win with a five minute cushion over Kristin White of New York. Pierina Luncio of Puerto Rico finished third overall female with a 9:48:26. Full events for the race can be found at Ironman.com.

Spectators enjoyed the opportunities to watch the racers go by, in the multiple turnaround feature that took the runners into town on High Street and up to the end of Poplar Street before the turnaround at Poplar and Gay. On hand at the turnaround was Main Street Director Brandon Hesson, who said, “This is a great thing for Cambridge — this right here, bringing the race right into town where not only we get to enjoy the show, the friends and family of the racers get to come and see what kind of a great town we have here.”

“Ironman events are not all cookie-cutter events,” said WTC’s Langen. “Every one has its own unique touch, unique features to it. We try to get as many components the same to give that Ironman experience, but there are always some unique differences depending on the venue. Cambridge is great. The run course and the bike course are gorgeous. It’s flat, it’s fast, it’s a great time of year and great weather. I think this is going to be an awesome experience for the athletes.”

The latest racers were still on the course well into the night; amateur athletes giving it their all at the Ironman. The Ironman events represent years of preparation and training to these competitors, and emotion ran high at the finish line. The finish was open until midnight, and some made it in just seconds before the cutoff.

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