SALISBURY — Some of the fittest triathletes in the Northeast — including a local third-place finisher — came to Branbury State Park on Lake Dunmore Sunday, to compete in the grueling final leg of the Vermont Sun Triathlon Series season, the annual Vermont Half Journey.
The half Ironman distance course consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run, making it the longest triathlon held in Vermont.
Ultimately, Mike Winn of Queensbury, N.Y., held off Waterbury’s John Spinney to win the men’s Journey in 4:18:06. On the women’s side, Angie Defilippi of Colchester trailed Kelli Montgomery of Wallingford, Conn., by nearly seven minutes after the swim but caught her in the first mile of the run and pulled away to win in 4:50:28.
Winn and Spinney were within sight of each other as they emerged from Lake Dunmore, but they trailed the swim leaders by several minutes. The bike course took the athletes north on Route 53 to Route 7 where they turned right toward Middlebury.
Addison County Sheriff’s Department deputies greeted them just before town, turning them south back to Brandon, where they turned around heading north again. The triathletes completed two circuits of Route 7 before climbing back to the lake. By then Winn had taken the lead, and Spinney held third. Spinney then posted the day’s fastest run (1:27:18), three minutes better than Winn, but had to settle for second in 4:20:02.
Chris Coffey, 34, of New Haven fared well in the men’s race. Coffey was 24th out of water, but rode his way into the top 10 before posting the day’s second-best run (1:28:11). Coffey caught all but Winn and Spinney to claim an impressive third-place overall finish in 4:26:45. Shelburne’s David Connery took fourth in 4:28:11. Cory Coffey (Chris’s brother) of Vergennes struggled in the run but still finished a respectable 27th overall.
Middlebury’s Steve Hare completed the bike ride in 18th place, but faded to 30th (5:03:09, fourth for men 50-54) as he nursed a hamstring injury. Former running coach Chas Lyons of East Middlebury admitted to being under-trained as he worked hard to finish 41st in 5:20:18. John Izzo of Salisbury took fourth in men’s 60-64 (110th overall) after completing a 100-mile running race only the weekend before.
Montgomery’s second-place women’s time was 4:56:34. Stowe’s Mariana Lara out sprinted Mary Guertin of Monson, Mass., by three seconds to claim third in 5:01:04. Guertin was fourth three seconds behind.
Middlebury’s Caryn Etherington was the lone local women’s finisher as she completed her Journey in 6:03:54, good for second in the women’s 50-54 age group.
Chris Coffey’s and Spinney’s run splits were especially fast considering the hilly, difficult out-and-back course, which took the racers south on Route 53, around Fern Lake and up the west side of Lake Dunmore before turning around. The bike course, fairly flat by Vermont standards, still had 2,000 feet of vertical uphill.
The event featured spectacular weather, sparkling sun and light wind. It did get hotter than ideal on the run as the temperature soared into the high 80s.
Organizers lauded the local support they got from Carrara concrete, the Middlebury Inn, Mr. Ups, Forth ’n Goal, Otter Creek Brewing, Ramunto’s, Middlebury Bagel and Deli and Vermont Sun Fitness Center.
The Middlebury Union High School field hockey team enthusiastically supported triathletes during the run. The field hockey players were decked out in costumes as they passed out ice-cold water, every mile, to the grateful athletes. The bikers were supported by runners from the Tiger boys’ and girls’ cross country teams, who completed the tricky task of passing aid to the racing cyclists.
Complete results and split times are available at VermontSun.com.
Vermont Sun is running a youth triathlon for kids ages 7-14 on Sunday, Sept. 12. The race distances are a 100-yard pool swim, three-mile bike, and 0.6-mile run for age 7-10 and double that for age 11-14. For information call 388-6888 or log onto VermontSun.com.