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Recently retired Wee gets title No. 7 at Lavaman; Alaska age-grouper Lamoreaux pulls surprise

April 3, 2017 - 12:05am

WAIKOLOA — It only seemed appropriate that on the platinum anniversary of Lavaman Waikoloa, the triathlon’s winningest woman would take the crown.

Bree Wee — sporting her reserved No. 1 bib — coasted into the sandy finish line at Anaehoomalu Bay, completing the Olympic Distance (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run) trek in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 46 seconds to capture her seventh Lavaman Waikoloa title on the 20th anniversary of the race.

Her wins stretch more than a decade, with her first title coming in 2004, and then reeling off victories in 2008, ’10, ’11, ’12, and ’15.

Much of the reason for the gaps in those wins were Wee’s grueling training and travel schedule as a professional triathlete. But recently retired from the sport, her roots are firmly planted on the Big Island.

She doesn’t plan on missing it again anytime soon.

“This race is so close to my heart. It was my first age group race and where I got my first win,” said Wee, now a first grade teacher at Kahakai Elementary School. “I’m a little more tired than I usually am, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

While racing retirement has been good to Wee, she still dabbles in the endurance world. She has been training for HURT100 — a 100-mile trail run on Oahu. That led her to believe her run would keep her in contention, but she said it was actually her solid swim and bike times that kept her alone at the front of the pack.

But apart from the competition, a large part of what brings Wee back to Lavaman is nostalgia, and seeing the race grow and evolve. That includes seeing a new crop of local young triathletes take on the sport.

She gave her old bike to a high school first-timer on Saturday, and when she saw it on the course, it inevitable stirred up some old memories.

So did hearing the familiar chorus of cheers Wee has grown accustomed to while racing in her hometown event.

“Although I’m retired, it still felt the same — like I was the hometown Kona girl trying to win the race,” Wee said. “I just really want to thank everyone for embracing me now and through the years.”

Oahu’s Carly Killam (2:16:06) and Big Islander Rani Henderson (2:17:49) rounded out the women’s overall podium.

On the men’s side, things were a little more complicated.

Jason Lamoreaux crossed the finish line with little fanfare. The finishing tape was long gone, and while his name was announced, it was not particularly celebrated.

Little did most of the crowd — or even Lamoreaux — know, he was the Lavaman champion with his time of 1:59:22.

“Coming in, I had no thought of being the overall winner,” said Lamoreaux, racing out of the 35-39 age group. “I thought maybe I could be on the podium because I knew I had a good race. But then to find out I won overall, that really brought the whole day over the top.”

The race uses wave starts, which means that the athlete that crosses first isn’t necessarily the winner until checking the times. The elite/professional wave of athletes started the swim at 7:20 a.m., with Lamoreaux’s group starting six minutes later.

Initially, Kealakekua’s David Wild — who raced out of the the elite/professional group — broke the tape and was announced as the victor. He was thought to be the winner for most of the morning as he received congratulations and took photos with fans. But he knew the possibility was there that Lamoreaux had won.

There was some discussion to determine if an age-grouper could be the overall champion of the race. It included some debate on wetsuit rules and how the race possibly changed by starting in a different wave. However, in the end, race officials determined Lamoreaux was the rightful overall champion.

Wild settled for second with a time of 2:00:10 and was obviously disappointed after the roller-coaster ride of emotion. But he still had reason to be pleased with his day. He set new personal records in every discipline, and knocked more than six minutes off his time from a year ago.

But the real key to staying happy was right under his nose — a flowing handlebar moustache.

“I do it to remind myself not to be too serious,” Wild said of his facial hair. “I take racing and preparing so seriously, but this is just for fun and to be healthy. When I look in the mirror or see a picture, it reminds me that this is not do or die.”

As f–or why Lavaman has stood the test of time over two decades, the Konawaena math teacher kept it simple.

“Look around,” he said as the clock ticked toward 2 p.m., more than four hours after finishers had started trickling in. “People don’t really stick around after a race. This place is still packed with people having a good time.

“It’s paradise, but you have to earn it.”

Lamoreaux, who makes the trip to Lavaman a near annual migration from The Last Frontier, agreed.

“No matter how the race goes, you’re still in Hawaii in the spring.”

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