I had heard about the Deschutes Dash in Bend, Oregon for several years. It was described as a sports festival with triathlons, duathlons, aquabikes, and running races, all taking place in a beautiful downtown park on the banks of the Deschutes River. Tammie and I have good friends who had relocated to the area a year ago and we decided it would be fun to combine a visit with the race. Tammie and I both signed up for the Olympic Triathlon and we were joined for the weekend by Jacqueline who also raced the Olympic.
There are many things that distinguish this race from the ordinary, but the most significant has to be the swim course. Due to logistics and the geography of the river, both the Olympic and Sprint events have the same distance swim of 700 meters, less than half the standard distance of 1500 meters for an Olympic. The other thing to note is that the swim is point to point and downstream, making for a much quicker than normal swim leg. By the way, Jacqueline’s interest in this race is purely coincidental to the unusual characteristics of the swim course.
After getting our gear set up in transition, we made the short walk upstream to swim start. Jacqueline and Tammie were in the fourth wave and the 40+ men five minutes later in the final wave, meaning that I would be passing slower athletes from the earlier waves the entire race. A normal 1500 meter Olympic swim takes me about 22 minutes and I typically catch and pass a lot of slower swimmers from the earlier waves. Not at this race, as even the stragglers from the earlier waves were pulled downstream so quickly by the current that they were completely out of sight before my wave started. It was a beach start and after a sprint and dive into the cold (low 60s) river, I was soon making my way toward the front of my wave. A short while later I was out front with no one to follow. We were swimming east into an early morning sun and there were no buoys or other landmarks to follow. I just swam hard and tried to stay in the middle of the channel where the current is the strongest. The only landmark at the exit is a black barrel anchored near a sandy beach which suddenly appeared after a ridiculously short amount of time. I headed for shore and exited in 7:48, good for the 5th best swim split in a field of 132. The current was indeed strong, as according to my Garmin, my pace worked out to 57 seconds per 100 yards, just a bit faster than my normal swim pace.
The 40 km bike course heads directly towards Mount Bachelor and is out and back, or can be more accurately described as up and down. The way out is almost entirely a steady climb that turns around at about 5400 feet of elevation (starting elevation was about 3600'). I was feeling good early and was steadily moving past riders from the earlier waves. I passed Tammie who was also having a good day. I continued to climb and actually held back a bit based on my power meter, making sure I didn’t burn my legs out too early. I eventually caught and passed Jacqueline, who was also making her way through traffic from the earlier waves. What goes up does come down, and the way back to town was a screaming downhill on beautiful pavement with only a few gentle turns. I tucked in and maintained 40 to 45 mph for much of the descent, finishing the 25 miles in 1:12:18 for an average speed of 20.9 mph and a normalized power of 224 Watts, ranking 7th best in the field of 132. I wasn't passed by anyone during the bike, meaning that I was still in first place in my wave, which meant leading my age group and also being the current first place master (40+), which was a recognized award in this race.
The run is a mix of trail and bike path and paralleled the river for a while before also heading uphill to the turnaround. I was passed early on by a younger guy form a previous wave that I had passed on the bike. But I was feeling good and continued to pass racers from the earlier waves and was still leading my wave at the turnaround. After the turn I looked carefully at the racers still heading out and spotted a fit guy with some gray in his beard (likely 40+) who appeared to be running well. I had a pretty good lead on him but was wary that he might be able to catch me before the finish. I continued to feel good and pushed pretty hard all the way back. It helped that it was mostly downhill and also somewhat shaded. With about a quarter mile left I took a glance back and saw that gray beard had indeed gained on me but I still had enough of a gap to finish 15 seconds ahead of him. He turned out to be 41, and while cordial, did seem to be annoyed at having lost the masters title to someone 14 years his senior. My run split was 45:31 which equates to 7:20 pace for the 6.2 miles and was 17th out of 132. My total time of 2:07:27 was good for 8th overall, first Master, and also first in my AG by over13 minutes.
I hung out and waited for Jacqueline and Tammie to finish. Both won their age groups, and Jacqueline additionally took the women’s masters title. We enjoyed the post race Deschutes Beer Garden and tacos, and uniformly decided that this one needs to go on the calendar for next year.