Triathletes with area ties excel in Half Ironman, sprint races

SALISBURY — After not holding the event in 2011, Vermont Sun officials decided this year to bring back the grueling Vermont Journey, which was contested on Sunday and based at Branbury State Park on Lake Dunmore — and was dominated by newcomers to the Half Ironman distance triathlon.
The Vermont Journey is the longest triathlon held in Vermont, consisting of 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking and 13.1 miles of running. The Vermont Journey is the apex of the Vermont Sun Triathlon Series of five triathlons.
Racing in a Half Ironman distance race for the first time, Matthew Cheug, 18, of Williamstown, Mass., claimed first place in 4:39:53. To win a long course triathlon at 18 is almost unheard of, according to race officials. Cheug did it even though he was only 17th after the swim. His bike ride, the day’s second best, put him in position for the win.
Cory Coffey of Vergennes had a solid swim and then used the day’s fastest bike split (2:23:35) to take the lead by seven minutes over Cheug. It wasn’t enough, as Cheug had the best run of the day (1:30:24) to outrun Coffey by 11 minutes.
Coffey said he just couldn’t quite hang on.
“I had a solid swim and the bike felt great. Once I took the lead I backed off my pace to try to save something for the run,” he said. “The first half of the run was OK, but I dropped off after the turnaround. He caught me at the nine (mile) mark, running about a minute per mile faster than I was doing.”
While on the bike course Coffey learned that his brother Chris had won the Vermont Sun Sprint Triathlon that finished earlier (see related story).  
“Having a Coffey sweep (of the two races) would have been fun, but I’m very content with second place,” Coffey said.
 Bradley Allen of Oakland, Calif., placed third in the Vermont Journey in 4:45:59.
Kristie Timmer of Merrick, N.Y., formerly a resident of Vergennes, claimed the women’s title. Timmer covered the distance in 5:01:03, 34 minutes ahead of runner-up Brooke Carleton of Huntington, N.Y., who finished in 5:35:35.
Timmer led the women out of the water with the second-best swim of the day. But it was on the bike where she left all the women, and most of the men, far behind with a 2:32:45 split.
This was the first time Timmer had attempted the Half Ironman distance.
“I was trying to get seeded as an Elite at an International Race late this season. I needed a strong result at a sanctioned event. So, I decided to come home. To win on my first try and get the result I needed is so, so great,” said Timmer.
Just five months after having three surgeries to repair a broken hip and smashed arm from being struck by an automobile, Middlebury’s Steve Hare entered the Half Ironman.
Hare competed as one of the oldest athletes in the race, in the 55-59 age group. He won his age group by 44 minutes and finished sixth overall.
The long course triathlon relied heavily on a dedicated support staff. Special mention goes to the Middlebury Union High School girls’ soccer team, which passed out food and fluids to the athletes along the 70-plus-mile course.
The Half Journey concludes the 2012 Vermont Sun Triathlon Series season.
After many top-five finishes over the past decade, New Haven’s Chris Coffey on Sunday finally won his first Vermont Sun Triathlon, posting a time of 1:03:17.
Shelburne’s Forrest Hamilton was a distant second, covering the 600-yard swim, 14-mile bike ride, and 3.1-mile run in 1:09:12. The top women’s finisher was Annmarie Stearns of Bethel with a time of 1:14:43. Jericho Center’s Daniela Bean followed Stearns in second in 1:18:34.        
The Vermont Sun Triathlon Series added this end-of-season “sprint” race for the first time this year. The race was held the same day as the Vermont Journey, a Half Ironman distance race that usually closes the season.
“Every year we have people who’ve been running, biking and swimming all summer ask us if we’d run a late season sprint triathlon because they felt they would like to try one. We were very pleased with the turnout,” said race director Dave Payne.
Coffey led from the start. He recorded the fastest split times in all three events, which is something very rare. He held a four-second lead after the swim, and then outrode the second best biker, Hamilton, by two minutes, which gave him over a three-minute lead going into the run.
“I’ve had (nagging injury) problems all season, which has limited my training and racing this year. I have my speed, but not the training to go long. I’ve always enjoyed competing here … crossing the finish first is the best feeling,” said Coffey.
Stearns trailed Bean by two minutes after the swim, but took command of the race with the fastest women’s bike split. Susan Dell placed third for the women in 1:22:45.
Several local women fared well.
Wendy Schneider of Ripton, the fifth woman across the finish line, turned in an impressive 1:23:25.
Middlebury’s Linn Larson, a member of the 55-59 age group, placed sixth overall (1:23:59). Larson has raced in the series almost since its beginning and has many top-five finishes but hasn’t done so for several seasons. Her success came from strong swim and bike legs.
Sandy Chicoine of Leicester placed second in the women’s 40-44 group in 1:27:23, while Bristol’s Amber Jimerson was third in the 30-34 group in 1:28:02.
In the women’s 55-59 group Andrea Halnon of Lincoln placed second in 1:40:58, while Salisbury’s Patti Romp was fifth in 1:54:59.         
Vermont Sun officials said the field was dominated by racers competing for the first time. They plan to keep the late season sprint a permanent fixture in the series.
Complete results for both races are available at www.vermontsuntriathlonseries.com.

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