By MICHA LEWTER
Sunday’s Lavaman Keauhou truly had a little bit of everything.
A new champion won the men’s race, the women’s champion led wire-to-wire, a racer went the wrong way three times on the run course and still finished third, and the top Big Island woman ran her first triathlon since a bear ran over her in her garage. Really.
When the vog settled at Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay, Kailua-Kona’s Chris Lieto finished the 0.93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bicycle ride and 6.2-mile run in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 20 seconds. Defending champion Tim Marr of Honolulu finished second in 2:06:08.
Honolulu’s Rae Bastoni claimed the women’s crown in 2:21:59.
“I came out of the water with Tim, and we were together on the bike until about six or seven miles in,” Lieto said. “Once I took the lead, I held it throughout.”
Marr called Lieto the “strongest triathlete on the bicycle here” and said he tried to push ahead of Lieto early.
“I wanted to be ahead of him out of the water, so I ran up the hill,” Marr said. “Then I really pushed myself up the first hill (Kamehameha III Road) on the bike. I got ahead of him, but I pushed myself so hard, when we were coming down the hill
my heart beat was racing so fast, and I couldn’t keep up with him.”
There was some confusion about the third place finish. Kailua-Kona’s Tommy Vonach finished with a time of 2:08:18, almost a minute faster than Kailua-Kona’s Luis De La Torre, competing in his first major event in more than two years. De La Torre finished in 2:09:13.
But Vonach got off the course three times and had to correct himself. There was discussion about potentially penalizing Vonach, but De La Torre told race director Gerry Rott that Vonach’s error actually added distance to his race.
“I could have pushed it,” Rott said. “But if the guy who would have made money tells me not to penalize him, then I’m not going to.”
The top three finishers earned prize money, with $1,000 going to the winner, $750 to second place and $500 to third.
“I probably added a third or a half mile to my distance,” Vonach said. “Luis was a good sport; he kept telling me, ‘You have to go this way.’”
De La Torre, who missed two years dealing with knee injuries, thought Vonach’s errors cost him a higher position.
“(Vonach) was mentally confused about where the course was,” De La Torre said. “He probably screwed himself out of second place by not familiarizing himself with the course.”
On the women’s side, there was no drama. Bastoni finished the swim in 23:04 and never looked back. She picked up her first Lavaman title, but she longed for a bit more of a challenge.
“I wish (2011 champion) Bree (Wee) was out here,” Bastoni said. “But I was happy with my race.”
Bastoni, like many athletes, called the course “difficult.” The run course was especially hard, because it was primarily off road. The venue changed from the now-defunct Keauhou Beach Resort, and race planners wanted to avoid having the run and bicycle course cover the same road.
“The run was hard,” said fourth-place finisher and Kailua-Kona resident Andrea Bess, who finished in 2:36:05. “It felt like I was running with a flat tire.”
Washington’s Debbie Potts finished second in 2:33:51, and Kailua-Kona’s Jeni Winegarner finished third in 2:34:10.
Winegarner competed in her first event in more than a year after a strange encounter in Alaska.
“At our home in Alaska, we live four months there and eight months here, a black bear went into our garage,” she said. “I didn’t know it, and as I was going into the garage, it was going out, and it ran into me.
“It didn’t attack me, but the way I fell messed up my shoulder.”
Winegarner had to have a “new shoulder” on her right side and also had work done on her left knee.
“I really enjoyed it today,” she said. “I realize what a privilege it is to be able to participate.”
• Cyclists hit by cars: Three bicyclists were hit by vehicles during Sunday’s race.
Two collisions happened at the intersection of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Hulikoa Drive, and one occurred at the intersection of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Henry Street. There were no serious injuries, but one driver was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident, according to Sgt. Raymond Childers of the Hawaii Police Department.