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It hasn’t been because of a lack of competition, but it’s been very tough to catch up to Liz Miller at the Los Alamos Triathlon for several years now.
Miller, one of Los Alamos’ top multi-sport athletes, held off another tough challenge from Santa Fe veteran athlete Mary Uhl to win her third consecutive women’s triathlon title Saturday.
The triathlon celebrated its 40th running this year. It features a 20-kilometer bike leg — which goes down and back Pajarito Road on Los Alamos National Laboratory property — followed by a 400-meter swim in the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center pool followed by a 5-kilometer run.
Miller was the first woman out on the course Saturday morning, which actually isn’t an enviable position because it’s tougher to judge by how much one is leading or trailing at any given point in the race.
But Miller posted a time of 1 hour, 11 minutes and 27 seconds, which was close to a minute and 45 seconds better than Uhl, who went out second in the women’s race.
There was less than 45 seconds separating the two following the bike portion and about 50 seconds between them following the swim before Miller put it away in the final leg.
“It feels awesome,” Miller said of her three-peat. “I was a little stressed this morning. I was like ‘Oh, my God, what if I don’t win?’ But this feels awesome. I love coming out here and racing, seeing a lot of familiar faces. It was great.”
In all, there were 119 individual participants and 19 teams in Saturday’s triathlon, which was down slightly from 2013.
In the men’s elite race, last year’s runner-up, Clay Moseley earned an impressive victory.
Moseley, a former Olympic-level cyclist, ran away with the bike leg right off the bat and never let loose his grip on the front-runner spot. Moseley gave himself a cushion of more than three minutes after the first event — he was actually the last of the three men’s elite racers to get onto the course — and cruised to victory in 1:03:35.
Interestingly, the runner-up this year, Los Alamos’ Pat Brug, a veteran multi-sport athlete as well, elected not to compete in the elite category. Brug finished in 1:05:25, which bested elite-level racer Robert Browning’s time of 1:06:11.
Last year, Moseley finished behind Chip Cooper, who won his second straight Los Alamos Triathlon in 2013, but didn’t compete this year. Moseley said, however, he felt that, even though his time was more than a minute off from his time last year, his performance Saturday would’ve put him in the running with just about anyone.
“I felt like I had a much better day today,” he said. “My time was on par, but they seemed to move the run turnaround, that adds a little bit of time. The turnaround to the bike gets rougher every year. There are more cracks in the road than there ever have been. The air today is very heavy, very humid…despite how I felt, very good, very strong, it just wasn’t as fast.”
While Moseley dominated the bike portion, as expected, he said one of the toughest parts of the race is going through the gates entering and exiting lab property, which is a challenge when bike speeds are approaching 60 mph.
He finished the bike portion in just over 34 minutes, nearly three minutes better than his next-closest competitor, Orion Staples. Staples, a former Los Alamos standout cross country runner who’s now running at Portland State, has worked with Moseley in the past for biking events.
On the women’s side, Miller picked up an 18-second advantage during the bike leg, but Uhl erased that in the pool, clearing the water in about 6:50 to Miller’s 7:10.
During her career, Uhl has made multiple appearances at the Ironman World Championship, which takes place in Kona, Hawaii.
Qualifying for Kona is the next thing on Miller’s to-do list — she will have a shot at just that when she competes at Ironman Tahoe next month.
With Uhl right on her tail, Miller finally put her away on the 5K. Uhl finished in 1:13:16.
“I know she’s tough,” Miller said of Uhl. “She’s a good competitor. She really pushed me on the bike…I run this course almost every single day, so I think that was to my advantage.”
Los Alamos’ Cathy Christopherson, another competitor who didn’t participate in the elite division, was third overall, clocking in at 1:14:04.
The fastest time of the day was posted by the relay team of PB & J, which finished in under one hour. That team beat its nearest competitor, The Three Amigos, by more than seven minutes in the men’s team category.