1998 Sea to Summit Triathlon Race Report:
Kayak / Bike / Run
The 5th Annual Sea To Summit Triathlon was held on Sunday, July 11th. Starting at 6:00 am, 23 ambitious individuals began a 111-mile journey from the island of New Castle (just off the coast of Portsmouth, NH) to the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington. This group of endurance athletes consisted of 20 men and 3 women from New England and New York. This grueling event begins with a 12 mile sea kayak paddle up the Piscataqua and Salmon Falls rivers to South Berwick, ME; followed then by a 90 mile bicycle ride in New Hampshire heading north into the White Mountain National Forest; and is concluded with a combination road and trail run to the summit of Mount Washington. The run alone gains over a mile of vertical in 8-miles!
Exiting the water first was Michael Wilcox of Webster, NY in a time of 1:54:23 followed closely by 4 others within the next minute and a half. After a quick transition from the paddle to bike, Tom Cross of Stratham, NH was the first cyclist to leave South Berwick. For the next 90 miles, the cyclists were faced with relentless head winds of 10 to 20 mph! Ten miles into the ride, Vincent Kotowski of Worcester, MA overtook Cross. Kotowski dominated on the bike and held a 6-minute advantage with less than 40 miles remaining. At that point, Cross had suffered a flat tire, which took 5 minutes to repair. Minutes later, Gary Passler who had exited the water in 10th place and 3 minutes behind the leaders, had now moved into 2nd place. Startled by the presence of Passler, Cross reclaimed 2nd place. Meanwhile, Christine Graham of Concord, NH had established a comfortable lead on the bike over the female competitors. Arriving first at the bike to run transition area in Jackson, NH was Kotowski with a 10-minute advantage over Cross. Less than Two minutes later was Gary Passler.
The run starts cruelly with a 4.5 mile uphill (1,000 vertical feet) road run from the Dana Place Inn to the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center. Once arriving at Pinkham Notch, there is a brutal 4-mile trail run/ hike up the steep and rocky Tuckerman Ravine trail (4,300 vertical feet) to the summit of Mount Washington. By the time Kotowski had reached the trailhead, his lead had shrunk to 6 minutes over Cross and 7 minutes over Passler. At just below the Hermit Lake Shelters and 2 miles from the summit, Passler had caught up to Cross. Cross and Passler remained in close proximity to each during their charge up the mountain. Half way up into the Ravine, Kotowski was overtaken by Passler and seconds later passed by Cross. For the first time in the history of the Sea To Summit Triathlon, the top 3 competitors were within 50 feet of each other while less than 1.5 miles from the finish. Maintaining his assault up the mountain, Passler slowly started to pull away from Cross and Kowtowski. Once above the ravine, the athletes were faced with 45-mph winds, 39-degree temperatures, and visibility of less than 50 meters. Certainly not beach weather, but not uncommon Mount Washington conditions!
Maintaining his advantage over his competition, Passler reached the summit marker in 8:51:00. A mere 71 seconds later, Cross reached the summit of the highest mountain in the north east at 8:52:11, followed by Kowtowski in 8:56:36. The only finishers within the next 45 minutes were Michael Wilcox (4th place) with a time of 9:30:36 and Bruce Lander (5th place) of Dover, NH at 9:35:51. Christine Graham continued to build her lead in the female division and placed an impressive 9th overall in 10:18:06. Nancy Caffo, 37 year old school teacher from Rochester, NY finished 2nd among the females in 11:40:00. Donna Kasianchuk, mother of 4 children and a finisher of 18 marathons, finished in 12:29:30. Of the 23 starters, only 16 competitors completed the journey from sea to summit. The majority of the DNF ís (ědid not finishî) were due to fatigue resulting from the brutal head winds on the bicycle and poor summit conditions.
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