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Things don’t change a whole lot in the multi-sport arena of Los Alamos. In fact, just about everything stayed the same this year.
The top finishers from the Los Alamos Triathlon last year made a repeat performance in 2013. Men’s elite reigning champ Chip Cooper and women’s elite champ Liz Miller both took top honors once again in the triathlon.
The Los Alamos Triathlon, one of the biggest sporting events of the year in Los Alamos County, returned for its 39th running Saturday. It is the oldest continuously-run multi-sport event in the country.
Entrants this year in the individual competition was down considerably from 2012, however. This year, 123 athletes finished the individual competition, down from 146 in 2012, although team participation was up slightly.
Cooper, who was the first person out on the course Saturday and the first to cross the finish line, noted one big absence this year: former triathlon champ and one of his toughest competitors, Jimmy Archer.
“Last year with Jimmy, that was a good marker,” Cooper said.
Nevertheless, Cooper still had his work cut out for him Saturday, trying to fend off Clay Moseley. Moseley, an elite-level biker, was on Cooper’s tail much of the way and actually made up the 30-second interval during the 20K bike leg, which is the first leg of the three-discipline race.
Cooper said he knew it wasn’t a matter of if Moseley would pass him on the bike, but when.
However, heading into the first transition — from bike to swim — Cooper was only 37 seconds behind Moseley, which he said was the key to his repeat victory.
“We all knew he was the best biker out there, no one can argue that,” Cooper said. “That was nice to be in the pool with him knowing I had a 30-second gap to make up. The guy’s a phenomenal athlete.”
Cooper retook the lead following the 400-yard swim, finishing in 6:42 versus Moseley’s 7:08, and very quick bike-to-swim and swim-to-run transitions.
In the women’s elite competition, Miller had a tough competitor of her own to try to keep at bay.
Miller took on Santa Fe’s Mary Uhl, multiple-time competitor at the Ironman World Championships and former Los Alamos Triathlon winner herself.
Beyond having to keep an eye on Uhl, Miller said she had to fight against both a bike malfunction — the gearshift mechanism wasn’t working properly — and a case of the stomach cramps with about three-quarters of a mile to go in the 5K run.
“It was definitely not the most fun,” Miller said. “It’s a great course, but it’s not my best sprint, that’s for sure.”
Miller said her legs were fatigued following the bicycle. She’s training to compete in the Half-Ironman World Championships next month and didn’t cut her training schedule down this week in preparation for the Los Alamos Triathlon.
Despite the bike issues, Miller still had the best bike finish of the day, 39 minutes, 42 seconds, nine seconds faster than Tamsen Schurman and 26 seconds better than Uhl.
Schurman would prove to be tough to shake as well, finishing her swim just 1 second slower than Miller — Uhl easily had the fastest swim time of the day, 6:52.
But Miller put the race away in the 5K, with her time of 22:31.
“It feels great,” Miller said of her repeat victory. “It’s very exciting to go out and do it again versus very strong women. It felt good to win again.”
The men’s team PB&J was the top finisher in the relay category (1:03:04). The Aspen Tigers won the women’s relay race (1:16:48) and the Baconators (1:08:32) won the coed relay race.
For Cooper, he said he may not compete for the top prize in 2014. His son will compete in next year’s triathlon and he may elect to run in a relay with him.
But Saturday’s win proved to him once and for all that he could hang with the top athletes in the county.
“The week leading up to this, it’s a self-mind game,” he said. “You always want to keep it up and make sure it’s not a fluke.”