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Highland Triathlon
A Test of Endurance

By Frank Rizzo
YULAN — August 7, 2001 – By triathlon standards the Highland Triathlon is a sprint. Which doesn’t mean that it’s a cakewalk.
“Does it get any easier?” John Lennon Jr. of Jeffersonville was asked Saturday after he finished his second triathlon.
“No,” was his emphatic answer.
The Highland Triathlon is small, and might lack the cachet of its bigger, more grueling cousins. But for the participants, it has always had its own particular appeal.
The tripartite event has become a natural part of the order of things in Yulan and surrounding areas on the first Saturday in August. Yet the Town Fathers were less than enthusiastic nine years ago when race director Doug Stern first proposed it.
“They looked at me like I was nuts,” said Stern. “They wanted to know what their financial obligation would be. I told them I was taking care of the financial obligations. I just needed their cooperation to make sure the race would be safe.”
Stern and his family had been living part-time in Yulan for a year in 1993. The New York City resident and owner of the Doug Stern Swimming Clinic credits his wife, Lynn Chapman Stern, for pushing the idea.
Now, the triathlon is so smoothly run that “once the starting gun goes off I stop being race director and become the biggest cheerleader,” said Stern, adding, “I’m a mess the night before!”
Stern knows that Sheriff Dan Hogue’s deputies will be making the Eldred to Yulan Road (County Route 33) safe for runners.
That the local constables, Yulan Fire Department and State Police will keep intersections safe for bikers.
That the Highland Lake Scuba Rescue team will be ready to aid any participant during the half-mile swim in Washington Lake.
That the county’s Department of Public Works, under Peter Lilholt, provided road signs which made navigating the course easier.
And that the American Legion Ambulance Corps will provide medical treatment to anyone who needs it.
“These people are here year after year volunteering their time, and they don’t get paid for it,” said Stern. “They make sure every individual in the race is cared for.”
The triathlon, explained Dave Greenberger of Yulan, a member of the current Town Planning Board, “Has been a very positive thing for the community. It brings people up and you get to have a spinoff effect to different businesses besides the boarding houses. It promotes the area, and brings together [different agencies]. You get a tremendous amount of volunteering from people who want to see this come to fruition.”
Records… and Records
On Saturday, a record field of 88 started the event, and 86 finished.
Old course record holder Mike Halstead, a veterinarian from New Paltz, established the standard for the new course with a winning time of 1:16:29. (The only change was in the run, which was shortened by one tenth of a mile.)
Halstead, 35, has missed the race for three straight years — once because his son Drew was born prematurely, and twice because it would have conflicted with the Lake Placid Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run).
Doug Clark, winner the past two years at Highland, opted to go for the Lake Placid event instead.
“I would have loved going against Doug,” Halstead said. “Looking at his times, I think I could have stayed close to him in the swim and bike events, then outrun him. He’s really fast on the bike, but on shorter races I can crank it up.”
According to Stern, Clark sent him an e-mail regretting missing Highland. “This is such a special race for me,” Clark wrote.
Halstead agreed.
“I love this race,” he said. “It’s my all-time favorite… it’s the flavor of the race. Nobody’s serious and everybody’s having fun. It’s nice to see the same people every year. Doug puts on a great race.”
Female champion Irina Ryjova, 27, of Brooklyn via Saint Petersburg, Russia, had to make up for last year’s disappointment.
She had built up a big lead after the swim and was biking when a part of her bike broke, finishing her bid for the day.
Ryjova said this was her sixth triathlon of the year. She won her age group in the Hudson Valley Half Ironman at Kingston (1.2 swim, 56 bike, 13.1 run).
Ryjova set a women’s course swim record on Saturday with a 10:43, third best overall on the day en route to a “new” new course record of 1:28:30.

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