Whidbey trio tackles Ironman Canada

Three South Whidbey triathletes made an impression in the sport’s big-time race — the Ironman — when they placed high in a field of about 2,000 athletes.

In addition, one of the three, Curt Gordon of Clinton, swam, bicycled and ran fast enough Saturday to qualify for Ironman Hawaii, the world championships of a sport many consider to be the toughest in the world.

Competing in Pentictin, B.C., Canada, Gordon, Brandon Henry of Langley and three-time Whidbey Island Triathlon champion Peter Oakley, also of Langley, were all out hunting for a trip to Hawaii in a race that requires even professional athletes to spend at least nine hours racing.

On a race course that included a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run, Gordon was the fastest, clocking a final time of 10 hours, 28 minutes and 39 seconds to place 11th out of 189 men in the 45-49-year-old age group. Henry was close behind at 10:43:14 and 18th place in the same age group. Oakley, who clocked the fastest swim of the three, finished in 11:36:37 and 98th out of 262 in the 40-44-year-old age group.

Gordon, who competed in Ironman Canada two years ago, sliced 47 minutes off his previous best time to qualify for the Hawaii race. Overall, he was the 199th finisher out of 1,950.

“I finished my race a couple minutes faster than I thought I could,” Gordon said.

More than anything, he was thankful to make it into Ironman Hawaii. Qualifying for the race has been his goal for the past three years.

Because not everyone who qualifies chooses to go to Hawaii, the South Whidbey group had hoped that Henry would also make it into the race.

Unfortunately, the “rolldowns” — the process by which athletes not interested in going to Hawaii eliminate themselves for the qualifying rolls — missed Henry by one placing. Gordon said this was unfortunate, since Henry, 47, “did everything right” in his pursuit of a top placing. He cut more than an hour off his time in the 2000 Ironman Canada.

Oakley, who had also hoped to join Gordon in Hawaii, was hampered early in the bicycling portion of the race by a flat tire.

Required by race rules to make the repair himself, he was never able to come back from the time lost.

All three South Whidbey men finished the second leg of the race — the bike ride — within 16 minutes of one another.

But on the run, Gordon put a good deal of distance between himself and his fellow islanders, running the marathon portion of the race in 3:42:29.

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