Swims Scratched in Montauk Triathlon Fest

Serpent’s Back mountain bike duathlon Sunday
Mike Bahel, above, was one of those who competed in the Half-Ironman race, one of three duathlons that EventPower put on in Montauk Sunday. Jack Graves

EventPower’s staff had to step lively this past week inasmuch as it had, because of a slightly high blue-green algae reading in Fort Pond, to cancel the swim legs of Sunday’s three-part triathlon festival in Montauk. 

“We’ve been tracking the readings in Fort Pond since June,” Chris Pfund, the race director, said, “but, with a slightly high reading at the end of last week, we decided discretion was called for and therefore we announced on Facebook on Friday that we were canceling the swims.”

Thus what were to have been three triathlons, of Sprint, Olympic, and Half-Ironman distances, became three (run-bike-run) duathlons. “It’s the first time we’ve had to do this in our 14-year history,” Pfund said.

Despite the last-minute change, “we were prepared — we’ve had course maps taking this eventuality into account for some years now.”

So, rather than waves of swimmers, waves of runners were released one after the other in downtown Montauk, beginning at 6:50 a.m. (When this writer arrived, at around 7, he wondered at first if he hadn’t arrived very late inasmuch as triathlons usually end with runs of varying lengths — 5Ks, 10Ks, and, in the case of a Half-Ironman, a half-marathon.)

There were 769 finishers in all (there were 900 registrants) — 299 in the Olympic (1.9-mile run, 24.8-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run), 284 in the Sprint (1.2-mile run, 10.6-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run), and 196 in the Half (1.9-mile run, 56-mile bike, and half-marathon).

Kenny Moore, a 42-year-old builder from Sayville, won the Sprint, in 56 minutes and 4 seconds. Caitlin Dowd, a 27-year-old pro cyclist from Smithtown, was the women’s winner (and eighth over all). Moore and she are trained, Dowd said, by Mike Monastero.

“I’ve never won here before — I’ve been in the top 5 in the Olympic and in the top 10 in the Half,” said Moore, who rates himself as a better swimmer than runner. His 8-week-old daughter, Evelyn, was at the finish line with his wife, Suzanne, to greet him. 

When Moore mentioned during the course of the conversation that he was a mountain-biker, this writer said he should race in Mike Bahel’s mountain-bike duathlon at Ed Ecker County Park on Sunday, Oct. 8. “No,” he said, glancing at his wife and infant daughter, “I’m done.”

Dowd, a nurse in Stony Brook University Hospital’s medical intensive care unit, also said she was a better swimmer than runner, though she came in first among the women on the initial run before speeding off from the Fort Pond transition area on her bike.

Pfund said that following Friday’s no-swim announcement, he had been urged to hold the swims elsewhere . . . in the ocean, in Fort Pond Bay, in Lake Montauk . . . but each proposal, he said, posed significant problems having to do with logistics and safety. 

The length of the initial runs, he said, was keyed to turnaround points — at the Second House Museum in the case of the shorter one, and South Elroy Drive in the case of the longer one.

Jonathan Joyce, a Drexel University senior from Chicago, posted the fastest Olympic distance time, 1:49:08, though he and his fellow collegians — there were teams from West Point, Northeastern, Cornell, Bentley, Coast Guard, the University of Massachusetts, Hamilton, Columbia, and Penn State — were apparently considered a separate Olympic distance category.

Three Tims — Timothy Clarke, at 4:05, Timothy Smith, at 4:08:28, and Timothy Walton, at 4:11:47 — topped the Half-Ironman field. Bahel, Body Tech’s owner, was in that race too, finishing 25th, in 4:58:40. John Broich of Sag Harbor was 31st, in 5:01:30. Krystal Shearer of New York City, 24th over all, in 4:58:24, was the Half’s women’s winner. Elizabeth Pratt of Bronxville was the women’s Olympic winner, in 2:05:21.

The Garrys, Kira and her father, William, carried Montauk’s banner, he finishing 13th in the Sprint, in 1:02:16, and she finishing second among the women in the Olympic distance, in 2:07:21. Kira, 24, who will compete with the Central Park Track Club’s indoor track team in the 5,000, ran the last three miles barefoot, her feet having become numb as the result of the 25-mile bike leg.

The races also drew 40 members of TriAchilles International, based in New York City, whose young French-born director, Charles Catherine, said triathlons were great therapy and confidence-boosters for Achilles club athletes who have lost their sight, or limbs, or who might be brain-injured or autistic. Besides building self-confidence, arduous triathlon competitions, said Catherine, helped to build trust among athletes and their guides, and provided a springboard for friendships as well. 

Catherine, who is blind, said he hopes to make France’s Paralympic triathlon team. He and another Achilles athlete, Abbey Lanier — who competed in the Sprint that day, as did Catherine — have competed in a national triathlon, in Santa Cruz, Calif. He’s to compete next week in a nationwide event in Sarasota, Fla. Lanier, 26, a three-year triathlete whose guide was Michael Alcamo of Huntington, ran with him her fastest 5K that day, a 26:05.

Swimming was the toughest event for visually impaired athletes, Catherine said, when asked, “because you have no point of reference — you can’t hear, you can become disoriented. . . . Most of us didn’t learn how to swim when we were young. It’s an acquired skill.” 

Still, said Alcamo, “we were a little disappointed that the swims were canceled, but better safe than sorry. Most of us liked the duathlon format.” 

On their tandem bike, he said, in answer to a question, “I’m the ‘pilot,’ and Abbey’s the ‘stoker,’ the engine. I tell her when we’re coasting and when we’re pedaling, and I alert her to turns. There was a 180-degree turn on the bike course today — we practiced that turn at 6 o’clock this morning!”

Caitlin Dowd, a pro cyclist from Smithtown, leading the way in the women’s running wave above, was to win among the women and to finish eighth over all in the Sprint distance race. Jack Graves