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The Observer Paper 12/22/14

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Mutchie Madness

Jeff Mutchie of Nampa, Idaho was the top men’s finisher in Sunday’s Wallowa Lake Triathlon ­— The Race to End Abuse. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
Jeff Mutchie of Nampa, Idaho was the top men’s finisher in Sunday’s Wallowa Lake Triathlon ­— The Race to End Abuse. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)

Wallowa Lake Triathlon draws more athletes from out of the area 

WALLOWA LAKE — Triathletes from around the region came to experience the grandeur of the Wallowa Mountains Sunday for the Wallowa Lake Triathlon.

Jeff Mutchie of Nampa, Idaho, finished first for the men in 1 hour, 4:36 minutes. Just a year ago, Mutchie couldn’t swim a stroke.  

“I was fourth or fifth out of the water, but this time last year I couldn’t swim,” Mutchie said. “I’ve been teaching myself since suffering a stress fracture in my hip.”

His first triathlon was in June at Sun River, Idaho, and his goal is to complete a full Ironman. In May the fire captain will compete in a 70.3 mile triathlon; half the distance of an Ironman.

Chris Williams of Bend came in second with a time of 1:05. Williams and Cassie McGraw competed in last year’s Wallowa Lake Triathlon when their friends Michael and Cara Gordon won their respective races just a few hours before they got married. McGraw was the fourth woman with a time of 1:26:52. McGraw grew up in La Grande and she and Williams came out early for the race and ran a 25 mile loop Saturday through the Wallowas at the recommendation of Laura Miller of Enterprise, and three-time participant of the race. Miller also ran a 25-mile loop the day before the triathlon.

Rob Bartol of Richland, Wash., came in third for the men in 1:07:38 and his wife, Lori Bartol, was the top woman finisher in a time of 1:19:41.

Amy Busch of Joseph has participated all three years and was the second overall woman finisher with a time of 1 hour 25:57 minutes. She said the water was a little choppy, but Wallowa Lake is her training “pool” and she said she’s been able to swim a couple times a week this summer. “Temperature-wise it felt great,” she said.

Now in its third year, overall numbers were down for the “Race to End Abuse,” a fundraiser for Safe Harbors, Wallowa County’s domestic violence prevention center. Despite warm temperatures, both in and out of the water, Director Paige Sully said the low turnout could be due to a number of factors. 

“The first couple years it was a novelty for locals,” Sully said.  “Triathlons aren’t something you just do, you have to train.”

Sully said having the race on a Sunday instead of a Saturday may have affected numbers as well. The change was made this year to accommodate the addition of an official timing system run by the Lewis-Clark State College cross country team.

Sully said using chip timing, where an athlete wears a chip that recognizes his or her time at each transition, forced race organizers to close registration a week before the event, but getting computerized results was a welcome change.

“Timing a triathlon is too complicated and results can be figured out sooner with chip timing,” Sully said.

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