First-time Whidbey racer wins men’s title, McInnes claims fifth in a row

Stacia McInnes sprints toward the finish line at the Whidbey Island Triathlon. She won her fifth consecutive women’s title.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Stacia McInnes sprints toward the finish line at the Whidbey Island Triathlon. She won her fifth consecutive women’s title.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record


LANGLEY — Stacia McInnes improved her triathlon time by 38 seconds.

Those shaved seconds may not seem like a lot over the 23.8-mile course. After all, an average racer finishes the course in about two hours.

Those precious seconds were enough for McInnes, 41, to win her fifth straight Whidbey Island Triathlon title.

“I was hurting,” McInnes said. “It’s good to go and say you couldn’t go any harder.”

The Bellevue resident is a return runner on the course from Goss Lake to South Whidbey Community Park; in 15 Whidbey triathlons, she’s missed just two because she was pregnant at the time. There was no time lost for McInnes, who has a family cabin in Clinton. She reduced her time by speeding through her transition from the swim to the bike.

Another veteran Whidbey racer, and South Whidbey denizen, also returned to form.

Peter Oakley of Langley finished in second place overall and first in the 45-49  age group. His final time of 1 hour, 30 minutes and 45.3 seconds was right around his average of 90 minutes.

“This one was good,” Oakley said. “I made my goal time and I made it onto the podium, which is always nice.”

Standing on the champions’ platform is common for Oakley. He placed in four of the past five Whidbey triathlons, taking third in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and second in 2009 and this year’s race. Looking back even further in the triathlon’s history, Oakley was the overall winner from 2001 to 2003, finished third in 2004 and second in 2005.

One change for Oakley this year: He crossed the finish line.

Last year, he crashed on his bicycle on Second Street in front of All Washed Up Laundromat.

“It was ironic,” he said.

For the triathlon’s overall winner, Mark Oliver, it was all dash and no crash. The 39-year-old from Lake Forest Park completed his first Whidbey Island Triathlon in 1 hour, 29 minutes and 9.7 seconds. He crossed the final line and smiled from ear to ear as he hugged his wife, children and father. The victory was his first-ever racing title.

He didn’t collapse in exhaustion, gasp for air or reach for hydration at the end. Instead, Oliver looked like he still had plenty of gas left in the tank.

“I feel like I could keep going,” Oliver said.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s easy,” he added. “When I’m out there, I don’t feel like I can push it any harder, but I recover quickly.”

Oliver led his age group in the half-mile open water swim in Goss Lake. But he also came out of the water 15 yards ahead of all other male swimmers in the first wave.

His times in the bike and run segments were also in the top five.

Though he raced like a pro, Oliver is relatively new to triathlons, having completed his first race four years ago.

Since then, Oliver has competed in 20 triathlons, most with Olympic distances like Whidbey’s. The key to his success wasn’t a miracle diet or a sit-on-the-couch workout plan; he has a history of athleticism.

In high school, Oliver ran cross country, swam and was a gymnast. He continued gymnastics in college at the University of Washington and tried out for the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Though he spent much of his life conditioning like a professional athlete, the skills don’t necessarily translate easily from the vault to a 19.5-mile bike ride.

“That’s short, explosive,” Oliver said of gymnastics. “This is longer distance.”

The 23.8-mile course may not be long enough. Oliver said his sights are set on the “next logical step” — a 70.3-mile test in the Ironman World Championship.

Though he’s already qualified for the race, he hasn’t yet committed to compete in the half-Ironman.

“It’ll be a family decision, because it’s like another job,” Oliver said.

More than 200 individual racers completed the Whidbey triathlon; only three did not finish for either medical or equipment reasons.

Forty-nine racers spread across 19 teams of either two or three triathletes competed, as well.

The youngest racer was 12-year-old Sierra Kovak. She swam for the Special K relay team with Kathryn and Lilli Stelling. Sierra’s 16 minute and 38.8 second swim was the eighth fastest split among the relay teams.

John Alsip, the oldest competitor at 74, set a goal to not finish last. Thanks to some speedy swimming and biking by his teammates, daughter Gretchen Vollbrecht and son-in-law Ron Vollbrecht, his team ranked in 15th place among the relay groups.

Visit and click on the 2011 results link for a complete list of times from the race.

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