The 30th anniversary of the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon, which debuted in 1982 with a number of the then-new sport’s elite competitors, including three Hawaiian Ironman champions, was celebrated at Long Beach in Noyac Sunday by a field almost five times as large as the first one, bearing out John Howard’s prediction that first year that participatory sports were the future.
Howard, the 64-year-old 1981 Ironman champion from Encinitas, Calif., who has set cycling speed and endurance records, and who, according to his count, has coached 176 national cycling champions, 16 world champions, and two Olympic cycling gold medalists, was the 30th anniversary’s guest of honor.
It was his first appearance here since that first year, when Dave Scott, the first inductee into the Triathlon Hall of Fame, won, and the long absence resulted in his going off-course in the 23.8-mile bicycle leg, which he thought might have cost him between a minute to a minute and a half.
Howard did the bike leg for an exhibition relay team put together by the race director Steve Tarpinian, who later said that that trio (Adam Kuklinski was the runner), while unofficial, was the first in Mighty Hamptons history to break two hours.
“We thought we might even be able to beat the winner’s time,” said Tarpinian, but Tom Eickelberg’s 1:57:18 proved to be two and a half minutes faster than Tarpinian, Howard, and Kuklinski’s 1:59:52.
Tarpinian was one of the first out of the water, in 20:14, Howard’s bike time was 1:01:13, and Kuklinski did the 10K run in 36:15.
Eickelberg, a 22-year-old pro from Babylon, was the first to finish the 1.5-kilometer (.93-mile) swim, in 18:43, and had the best 10K run split as well, 35:52. The runner-up, Craig Foos, 34, of New York City, had the fastest bike split, 59:22.
Howard, despite veering off-course, traversed the rolling terrain on a bicycle Tarpinian had lent him very swiftly, coming in just 41 seconds after Eickelberg. Later, he said he probably would have been five minutes faster in his prime. . . . “But while I don’t have the power I did in the ’80s, I do have the enthusiasm still. My point of view at 64 is to stay active.”
Asked how many triathlons he’d done over the years, Howard, who placed third, first, and sixth in Hawaii Ironman competitions, said, “I don’t keep track . . . I don’t do them anymore, but I still swim and run. I don’t want to lose the disciplines. The bike is therapy for me.”
As for the athletic potential of human beings, Howard, who also races a modified 1970 BMW in vintage races, was sanguine. “Oh definitely we can improve — in every athletic endeavor. The times are still coming down.”
Eickelberg, who is sponsored by Power Bar and trained by Mike Monastero and Doug Williamson, co-owners of the Babylon Bike Shop, where he works, said it was his first time here. “I don’t think I’ve lost on Long Island in the last couple of years,” he said in answer to a question, “but it’s a small pond.”
The women’s winner, and seventh over all, in 2:07:32, was Amy Bevilacqua, 37, of Wilton, Conn., a mother of four children ages 8, 6, 4, and 2.
“I was lapped by some amazing women pros in the swim of a race in Des Moines recently and they made me get out! That’s why I’m here,” she said with a laugh.
Nothing went amiss for her on Sunday, however. “It was a lovely swim today. I was in the second wave . . . everything was perfect. I’m more of a biker and runner; I have to work on my swim.”
This would probably be her last triathlon of the season, Bevilacqua said, though she’s planning to do a cycling road race in the Adirondacks soon. “I’ve never ridden in a pack — I’ll have to talk to John Howard about it.”
The first year she did Mighty Hamptons, in 2002, she “was pregnant, though I didn’t know it at the time. I did it in 2007 too, though I had a 6-month-old then. It’s been nice having two years not being pregnant!” she said, laughing again.
The winning women’s relay team that day, in 2:22:33, were locals. Amanda Husslein did the swim in 24:33, Jenny Keller did the bike in 1:12:05, and Sharon McCobb did the run in 43:05.
David Powers, 44, of Wainscott was second out of the water and slipped to sixth. He was slowed down a bit on the run by a strained calf muscle.
Charles Whalen, 50, of Montauk, whose time was 2:14:19, placed first in the 50-to-54-year-old men’s group. John Broich, 50, of Sag Harbor was second. His time was 2:15:16.
Dan Roberts, 38, of East Hampton, who finished 10 seconds behind Broich, placed third in the men’s 35-39s, and Erin Tintle, 39, of East Hampton was second in the women’s 35-39s in 2:34:32.
The youngest participant was 16-year-old Hunter Owens of Stony Brook. His time was 2:39:38. Odd Sangesland, 82, of Plainview was the eldest triathlete. He finished in 4:20:12.