WAIKOLOA — Oahu’s Tim Marr held off Kailua-Kona’s Luis De La Torre and Thomas Vonach down the final stretch Sunday to capture his third Lavaman Waikoloa title in nine years and first since 2007.
Marr came in at 1 hour 55 minutes and 19 seconds, with De La Torre and Vonach following close behind at 1:55:54 and 1:56:34, respectively.
Marr finished the Waikoloa event in third place the past two years, and won the final edition of the Keauhou Lavaman in November.
Canada’s Magali Tisseyre took top honors in the women’s professional division with a time of 2:01:34, edging Kailua-Kona’s Bree Wee, who finished the trek in 2:04:31.
Marr dedicated the win to a Eduardo Torres, a friend who died just before last year’s race from a brain aneurysm.
“It feels good,” said Marr. “I really wanted to win last year but I was not trained well enough. It does not matter how passionate you are, if you are not trained well enough you are not going to win and that was the case last year. I wanted to win today for him. It was a year late, but I got it done.”
Marr exited the 0.9-mile swim at Anaehoomalu Bay first in 19:03, and never looked back. He maintained the healthy lead on the 24-mile bike ride on Queen Kaahumanu Highway and wrapped it up with a quick time on the 6.2-mile run on the Waikoloa Beach Resort grounds.
“I like racing from the front,” Marr said. “I race on adrenaline and the excitement of being at the front of the pack. Sometimes when I get behind in a race I start to struggle. That excitement and adrenaline dissipates when the crowd isn’t cheering quite as loud, and you don’t have the lead motorcycle in front of you.
“Some guys think it is a bad plan to race from the front because you utilize a little more energy racing like that, but it’s in my DNA. That is all I really like to do.”
Tisseyre had been on Maui for over a month for a training camp, and used Lavaman as the culminating event to gauge her progress heading into the heart of the triathlon season.
“I had a really good swim,” Tisseyre said. “I’ve been injured running, so I have been focused on the things that have been working, like the swim. I surprised myself out there. I could not believe I was swimming at the front of the pack and on pace with a lot of the guys. That was a shock for me.”
It was Tisseyre’s first time racing the full Lavaman course. She raced three years ago, but her coach only allowed her to do this swim and bike portion of the event.
“This course is spectacular,” Tisseyre said. “I do not think I have raced on a more fun course. I get motivated when it is not boring and there is a lot going on. There is no boring part in this race, so I love it.”
Tisseyre and Wee are former training partners, so the top competitors were familiar with each other.
“As soon as I found out she was on the start list I knew I was racing for second,” Wee said. “I didn’t want to discourage myself, but being realistic I was just coming off racing an Ironman and have been training for Ironman Texas in May. I have all long-distance in my legs. I tried to get that short course speed going, but it just wasn’t there.”
For Wee, the race also serves as a homecoming to where her triathlon career really took off.
“Lavaman was my first real triathlon,” Wee said. “It’s nice to come back to where you got started.”
Rounding out the podium on the women’s side was Kinsey Apperson from Anchorage, Alaska, with a time of 2:12:35.
At 46-years-old, second overall finisher De La Torre has become an ageless wonder in the sport and is only picking up speed as time passes.
“It’s nice to be getting older and getting faster,” De La torre said with a smile. “I have to admit, I have to prioritize training and rest a lot more now than I used to.
“It’s really just a great experiment — how far can I take this and stretch it. It is almost absurd, but I still have that drive. It is unquenchable.”
Marr admitted, having De La Torre chasing him was not a comfortable feeling.
“Luis kept me real honest. The guy is getting older, but only getting faster,” Marr said. “Then you have Thomas back there who can really run too, so there was no way I could just cruise down the stretch.”
For Vonach, it was a stellar 42nd birthday weekend, setting a personal best for Olympic distance and making the podium for the first time at Lavaman Waikoloa.
“Short distance racing is tied to body rhythm and how you feel,” Vonach said. “I think for the spectators, it was a great race. The top three were all really close. Luis and Tim are some of the best athletes in the state and it is an honor to be on the podium for them.”
Vonach smiled when asked about being part of the 40-and-over elite club.
“Luis and I are proving us old farts have something in our legs still after all the mileage we have collected,” Vonach said. “What is really great about this race is that there are so many young people racing. We try our best to be mentors for the youth.”
As the afternoon wore on, hundreds of other finishers trotted to the finish line at Anaehoomalu Bay, greeted by lively festivities. Nearly every athlete stuck around on the beach, and enjoyed what has become known as the best party in triathlon.
“I love this event,” Marr said. “It is always spot on and done to perfection, and you cannot beat the atmosphere. It is something special.”
Editor’s note: For full results of Sunday’s race, visit www.hawaiitribune-herald.com