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The Big Easy In East Texas

by Kahne Parsons

Can a race get any better?  Judging by the sterling quality of September’s third annual Rose City Triathlon, it will be hard to improve on 2010.  This year’s participants, their families, and volunteers enjoyed a great race followed by a New Orleans-themed feast prepared by Rick’s on the Square. The huge tent and food, all sponsored by local businessman and triathlete Robert Peltier, featured long tables with fine table clothes and center pieces of Mardi Gras beads and party masks—all accompanied by a live jazz band.

After battling Mother Nature for two years—first Hurricane Ike in 2008 and a rain-swept event in 2009—organizers and participants enjoyed clear skies and warm temperatures as they gathered along the dam of West Lake Tyler.  After a pre-race briefing by world-renowned aerodynamic guru John Cobb, racers observed respectful silence as a musician played the “Star Spangled Banner” on his trumpet.  And then the elite wave of racers descended the steps to the dam to await the start of the race.

Local college students prevailed in the men’s field as UT-Tyler graduate student and course record-holder Chauncey Deller took the early lead.  However, fellow Patriot Mark Saroni eventually pulled back Deller on the bike and run to finish in the lead of the men’s overall open win a time of 1:03:58.  TJC student Timo Grunland completed the men’s open podium.  Not to be outdone by his former (and current) protégés, UT Tyler cross-country coach Robert Hepler took the men’s master’s category (and fifth overall) with a time of 1:07:46.

Behind the elites, Marshall resident Natalie Bach turned in a top-notch swim performance on her way to taking the women’s overall win, followed by Karen Robertson and Shanna Durr.  Joanna Rathbun carried the day in the master’s category.

Although those who topped the podium enjoyed their victories, every participant who crossed the finish line was a winner.  A total of 329 people attempted the course, ranging in age from 9 years to over 70.  Every finisher received a commemorative medal to mark their achievement.  While the elites made the effort look easy, for many,  even seasoned triathletes, the race proved anything but easy.  One 21-year-old triathlete succumbed to a vicious case of muscle cramps a few hundred yards out on the run course.  After receiving assistance from paramedic volunteers from the Bullard Fire Department, the athlete was able to finish the run and enjoy some of the fun at the post-race tent.  Other racers jogged, walked, or employed some other form of forward momentum to reach the great finishing arch at race’s end.  There, they were invited to mark their achievement by signing the arch.

These personal touches—a yellow rose laid across the handlebars of each participant’s bicycle, plastic bags containing footwear left at the dam placed on the saddle of the bike, smiling volunteers helping at every step—have made Rose City a perennial favorite among regional triathletes, who ranked it the best triathlon in its category two years in a row.  Next year, Rose City will serve as the regional sprint championship race for the entire South Midwest region of the USA Triathlon association.   Athletes from across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana will get a sweet taste of the Big East in East Texas that is the Rose City Triathlon.

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