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Blocked in, but not out, triathlete rolls

Though the bicycle portion of her triathlon may be her strongest suit, Marti Reimer-Reiss didn’t get to use it to its full effect at Saturday’s national triathlon championship in Shreveport, La. She still  managed to place 21st among all women at the 1,200-athlete event. - Matt Johnson
Though the bicycle portion of her triathlon may be her strongest suit, Marti Reimer-Reiss didn’t get to use it to its full effect at Saturday’s national triathlon championship in Shreveport, La. She still managed to place 21st among all women at the 1,200-athlete event.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Marti Reimer-Reiss didn’t have a lot of room to move last Saturday.

In the middle of the bike portion of the national triathlon championship in Shreveport, La., the South Whidbey triathlete was one of more than 1,200 people crammed onto a short, looping bike course after completing the race’s 1.5-kilometer swim.

Having won six smaller, Northwest triathlons throughout the summer — including the Whidbey Island Triathlon — Reimer-Reiss had what it took to be one of the best. But crouched over her handlebars and unable to find an easy way around many of her competitors, she was in a traffic jam.

“I didn’t feel that I could show what I had on the bike,” said Reimer-Reiss, who still bested her performance at last year’s national championship by completing the swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run in two hours, 13 minutes and 36 seconds.

On the strength of a 24:05 lake swim and one of the best runs by a woman in the race, the 34-year-old Clinton triathlete made up for much of the time loss she suffered on the bike, placing eighth out of 61 women in the 30-34 age group and 21st among all women. Her performance also earned her a trip to the world triathlon championships in 2004, which will be held in Portugal.

But perhaps more than anything, Reimer-Reiss picked up valuable experience in last weekend’s race. She will finish just her second year of serious triathlon competition when she travels to New Zealand Dec. 5 to race in the International Triathlon Union world championship. The race in Shreveport, she said, was a class in big-race tactics.

The rules of the race forbade competitors from closely following each other on the bicycle, or drafting. At the same time, riders were required to complete passes in less than 15 seconds. One of those passes got Reimer-Reiss in trouble. Well aware of the rules, she tried repeatedly to move around a male cyclist. With each attempted pass, he surged, forcing Reimer-Reiss to drop back to avoid breaking the 15-second rule. On one of those failed passes, race judges penalized Reimer-Reiss two minutes against her final time, telling her that by dropping back she was admitting that she had broken the 15-second rule.

Talking about the race this week, Reimer-Reiss said she may need a new riding strategy, one that involves paying more attention to her ride than counting seconds as she moves around other racers. Having never experienced a race like this one, she said she is looking forward to giving it another shot at the world championship.

“It really makes me hungry for worlds,” she said.

Overall, the race was a good one for Reimer-Reiss. Swimming 3:40 faster than she did at last year’s national championship, she was one of the quickest women out of the water. Overall — not counting the penalty applied to her time — she raced about 10 minutes faster than in 2002.

“I feel like I put together the best race I could,” she said.

A converted soccer player and a professor of psychology, Reimer-Reiss had dabbled in the sport of triathlon for a number of years before getting serious last year. At Shreveport, she was the top female finisher from Washington State.

The womens winner in Shreveport was Sabine Bildstien of Austin, Texas. She completed her race in 2:07:03.

Another South Whidbey triathlete competing in the race was Pat Buchanan. Placing 21st of 39 competitors in the 50-54 age group, Buchanan — a Bayview area resident — completed her race in 3:00:11. The cycling portion of her race kept her among the more competitive athletes in the race as she streaked to a 1:14:50 on multi-loop course.

Buchanan was the lone Northwest representative in her age group at the race.

Both Buchanan and Reimer-Reiss are members of the South Whidbey Endurance Athletics Team.

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