Athletes get their game on for today’s Race the Rock triathlon

LANGLEY — For 300 triathletes from around the Northwest and beyond, today’s the big day — the annual Whidbey Island Triathlon begins at 9 a.m. with a chilly half-mile swim around the buoys at Goss Lake.

Peter Oakley

LANGLEY — For 300 triathletes from around the Northwest and beyond, today’s the big day — the annual Whidbey Island Triathlon begins at 9 a.m. with a chilly half-mile swim around the buoys at Goss Lake.

After they emerge dripping from the lake, they’ll quickly change into bicycling togs for the 19.6-mile ride along the streets of Langley.

Drivers should be prepared for hundreds of bikers pedaling their way along Bayview Road, over the Saratoga hills, through downtown Langley and along Maxwelton Road to the transition staging area at Community Park. The event concludes with a 3.8-mile run through the park.

Some athletes are searching for a personal best, some have joined a team and others just want to show their kids they still have what it takes to compete.

This will be Frazer Mann’s ninth year racing the rock. He said the challenge is finding the time to train.

“To do well, you need to try to train six days a week all year long,” he said. “Running is the most demanding physically, and swimming is the most technical.”

Mann said a swimmer needs to learn to be as streamlined as possible to be the most efficient through the water.

“And biking takes the most time in training,” he explained. “I ride two to three hours, three days a week.”

His super light Giant racing bike has been modified over the years, including a $2,000 set of Zipp wheels specially designed for triathlons.

“It’ll do the job, barring any flats along the way,” Mann said.

Mark Hodson was asked by Allison Miller to join her and Mark Eager for the race — Miller will swim, Eager run and Hodson will ride his Trek 1000.

“I’ve been riding a 25-mile loop all summer to get ready,” Hodson said. “This is my first experience with this race, but I’ve done several long-distance races in Oregon, like the Reach-the-Beach.”

Late Thursday, Bob Thome joined others to spruce up the transition area at Goss Lake. He said that, though he wants to do well, his job as a pilot takes him away from home, forcing him to compress his training schedule.

“I go to the pool when I can and joined the master swimming program to get in shape,” he said. “By May, the lakes warm up and I don a wet suit and really get going.”

When it’s cold outside, Thome works out on a bike mounted on a trainer. He said the key to riding is to be as aerodynamic as possible.

“Elbows tucked in, body crouched over the handlebars, seat moved forward,” he said. As for running, that’s just a case of endurance and staying the course.

“This is a uniquely Whidbey event and a great deal of fun,” he said.

Dave Mattens is doing the whole race as an individual while his children — twin brothers Aren and Evan and sister Michela — decided to race as a team.

“I’m in the water by 5:20 a.m. as many mornings as I can,” Mattens said. “And

I started riding to work, a 45-mile round trip.”

He said he hopes to achieve a personal best, but the real reason he’s involved goes a bit deeper.

“I want to show my kids I can still hang in there,” he explained. “We motivate each other to do our best. Someday they’re going to head out on their separate journeys, but for now it’s a family thing.”

The race is organized by the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District, which means program coordinator Carrie Monforte who also wears the hat as race director.

“It’s a lot of work, but this is the biggest thing we do at the park district all year,” she said.

Monforte has been busy marking the course, setting up water stations, buying fruit, making sure the transition areas are ready and attending to the small details.

“We couldn’t do this without the help of over 100 volunteers,” she said. “They’re excited, motivated and absolutely needed.”

She wishes they could have registered more than 300 — there are 24 on the waiting list as of Friday morning. For years, the race began at Lone Lake, but continuing concerns over algae growth have forced organizers to make the switch to Goss Lake.

“If we had a bigger space for the transition, we could accommodate a bigger crowd,” Monforte said. “This is an event for serious triathletes, novices, friends, families and folks of all ages.”

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