A ‘Warrior’ Wins Serpent’s Back Duathlon

Chris Daily won in 1 hour and 34 minutes
From the right, Omar Leon, Paul Hamilton, Chris Daily (the eventual winner), Beth Feit, Joe Amato, and Graeme Olsen (in the lead) sprinted across Ed Ecker County Park’s meadow at the start of Sunday’s Serpent’s Back Duathlon. Jack Graves

Chris Daily, 58, of Farmingdale and Florida, won Mike Bahel’s Serpent’s Back Duathlon (2.3-mile run, 11.5-mile bike, and 2.3-mile run) in Montauk’s Hither Hills Sunday, in 1 hour and 34 minutes, bettering a longtime rival, Joe Amato, a Pierson High School cross-country coach, by a little less than six minutes.

Daily, who last won this race in 2005, said afterward that “the last time I was here, about three or four years ago, I broke my foot on a rock with about a mile and a half to go. I was so happy to finish second.”

So happy apparently that it took him 11 days to go to the hospital to have the foot looked at. There were myriad opinions. The foot has since healed, as has, Daily added, a badly hurt back and shoulder, which he injured in a mountain bike crash. Sunday’s was the first combined run and mountain bike race he’d done in the past three years.

“He’s a warrior,” said Amato. “We’ve raced against each other for 30 years. Sometimes I can catch him on the bike, but he’s an outstanding runner. . . . I didn’t catch him on the bike today. I’ve got to get in shape.”

The race, which never draws a large crowd, but always an enthusiastic one, is in its 14th year, and during that span the bike course has periodically been changed a bit, once so radically that Dan Farnham, who had laid it out the day before, made a wrong turn owing to the fact that Bahel had rethought it the morning of.

Farnham, who demurred when this writer told him people were always telling him he was the best mountain biker out here, and Paul Hamilton won the male relay division — and the race, for that matter — in 1:29:00. Peter Goldwasser of Glastonbury, Conn., was third, in 1:42:57.

Caroline Cashin, who recently did the three-day, 300-kilometer Epic Israel mountain bike race with her husband, Ed, in Tel Aviv, after which she raced up and down Vermont’s Mount Ascutney, winning her Category 1 age group, teamed with Beth Feit and the Cashins’ 11-year-old daughter, Dylan, to win the women’s relay division. 

Gabriella Vides-Barry, 16, of Queens was the sole female to do the entire run-bike-run, in 1:52:25. Omar Leon, 18, an East Hampton High School junior, was the fourth-place finisher over all, in 1:46:47. 

“You’ve got to raise your seat,” Sharon McCobb, the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s president (and a competitor that day in the relay), said to Leon. “That way you’ll get more power.”

“If East Hampton goes upstate in cross-country, he’ll be the reason,” she said to this writer. Cut from the boys soccer team earlier this fall, Leon went out for boys cross-country, much to his teammates’ and Kevin Barry’s delight. He’s been its number-three runner ever since.

Leon’s initial run time, of around 13 minutes, was Sunday’s fastest.

Two of the contestants, Tim Treadwell and Walter Cooke, eschewed running for swimming as their last leg, with Bahel’s approval. He thought that three-quarters of a mile in Fort Pond Bay would be the equivalent of a 2.3-mile trail run, and so they swam instead.

On emerging from the placid water — they’d swum down to Navy Beach and back to Ed Ecker County Park off Navy Road, where the duathlon’s transition area was — Treadwell said he would suggest to Bahel that next year an upside-down triathlon (run-bike-swim) be added to the duathlon. There were such races, he said, elsewhere in the country, and they were, assuming lifeguards were willing to stay out in the water for an hour or so longer than they ordinarily would to make sure everyone was safe, the better way to go, given the fact that health crises are more likely to occur in the swims owing largely to hyperthermia. 

The upside-down format made more sense, said Treadwell, “because you’ve got fresh legs for the run and can go all out on the bike before stretching out in the water, which felt very good today. That’s the way God intended it to be,” he said, with a smile. “Again assuming you can keep the swimmers, who will be greatly spread out rather than bunched in waves, safe.”

McCobb chose the event to announce that one of its competitors, 56-year-old John Broich (who had been at his daughter Olivia’s wedding on Shelter Island the night before), was the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s pick as male athlete of the year. He will be so acknowledged at OMAC’s holiday dinner in early December. 

She added, in answer to a question, that its female athlete of the year, community service award, and male high school athlete of the year recipients had been picked too, though they, she said, had not been notified yet.

Broich, a retired biology teacher who lives in Sag Harbor and is in his 30th year coaching cross-country and track at Westhampton Beach High School, has been triathloning, he said, since 1984, a span that has included “seven or eight Lake Placid Ironmans.”

“I’m better at the short distances, but I always pick the longer ones because of the challenge.” 

“I’m trying to qualify for Hawaii,” he said in answer to a question.” That’s on my bucket list.”

Next up for endurance athletes is the Brewathlon at the Montauk Brewery on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m.

Four-person relay teams are to row (on machines), bike, run, and row. Chugging had been one of the legs (and a reportedly crucial one) in the past, but had since been chucked, said McCobb, “because of insurance concerns.”

Dan Farnham, above, one of the best mountain bikers out here, and Paul Hamilton were the Duathlon’s winning men’s relay team, in 1 hour and 29 minutes. Jack Graves