Brewhouse Tri: A Course Record

Another day at Pike Lake, another course record for David Thompson of St. Paul.

Minnesota’s best multi-sport athlete won a third straight Brewhouse Triathlon title by lowering his time a third straight year Sunday. The professional competitor was first in a field of 186 in 1 hour, 34 minutes, 5 seconds for a .8-mile swim, 20.6-mile bike and five-mile run that starts and finishes at the Pike Lake Auto Club.

Runner up Jonathan Balabuck, 30, of Thunder Bay, Ontario, was more than two minutes back in 1:36:20, followed by former Duke University runner Patrick Parish, 24, of Circle Pines, Minn., in 1:37:01 and eight-time champion Brian Bich, 43, of Duluth in 1:37:53. Heidi Keller-Miler, 45, of Chaska, Minn., won her first Brewhouse women’s title in a women’s masters course-record 1:51:51.

Thompson, 31, cut 17 seconds off his mark from last year.

“He’s the real deal,” Balabuck, a firefighter, said of Thompson. “He can win local events and can go anywhere in the world and race to win.”

A knee injury slowed Thompson in 2008 and the Brewhouse was his final race of the season. He’s come back strong setting personal bests in a number of events including breaking Tony Schiller’s 14-year-old course record at the Heart of the Lakes Triathlon July 19 in Annandale, Minn., and breaking Balabuck’s course record at the Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half-Ironman a week ago in Chisago City, Minn. Thompson was also second among 2,000 in an international field in the unique Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon on June 16 in San Francisco.

Biking has been his strength (he was first in Saturday’s Grand View, Wis., Firehouse 50-Miler) and has been working harder on swimming and running, with notable results.

“I’ve been training harder and getting faster, and have been able to get better even though I’m getting older,” Thompson said. “I think I can keep improving.”

For inspiration he points to some of the world’s top triathletes who are older — Americans Matt Reed, 33, and Andy Potts, 33, and Australia’s Craig Alexander, 36.

“David is becoming more balanced in the three events and becoming more dominant,” Bich said. “He can come into a race like this, not rested and not having tapered, and win.”

Keller-Miler, a former professional triathlete, has been bothered by hip and hamstring problems. She planned a vacation weekend in Duluth with her husband and three children, and contacted race director Rod Raymond on Wednesday. Most of the race went well.

“I felt good, but not on the run. That was rough and my hip is killing me,” said Keller-Miler, a graduate of St. Cloud Tech High School and Hamline University who is the office manager for the Minnesota Distance Running Association in Edina.

Two-time women’s champion Marlo McGaver, 39, of Duluth was second for a second straight year in 1:56:21. She also raced after competing in Saturday’s Firehouse 50, placing second in 2:16:18.

“It was a very difficult, windy day [at Grand View] and I gave it everything I had. But [Sunday] you forget about Saturday and give it all you have, again. You know it’s going to hurt,” said McGaver, a pharmacist who is entered in the Duathlon World Championships on Sept. 26 in Concord, N.C.

Duluthain Rhett Bonner, 45, was the top 45-and-older finisher, placing fourth in 1:39:15, a personal best on the course. He agreed with most entrants, saying it was the coldest day he could remember for a Brewhouse race with temperatures barely into the 60s with cloudy skies.

* Winners in the accompanying short course were Christopher Sachs, 29, of White Bear Lake, Minn., and Jeanne Fleck, 44, of Proctor. Sachs led a field of 418 in 53:59 for a .34-mile swim, 10.3-mile bike and 2.6-mile run, while Fleck’s second straight title came in 57:48.

Fleck had hoped to compete in the long course event, but is nursing a sore left ankle while also preparing for the Duathlon World Championships.

“My physical therapist suggested the shorter race so that I didn’t have any setback. My goal is to be able to keep training and be ready next month,” Fleck said.

* Defending short-course men’s champion Tim Andrew of Duluth was a spectator after injuring his back in a mountain bike race in May in Cable, Wis.

* There were a record 735 entrants in the two races and 604 combined finishers in the 23rd annual event.

* The top long-course relay teams were: Dave Malban, Jon Heyesen and Kevin Peterson in 1:48:55; Jessie Bittner, Gary Lepisto and Jeremy Polson in 1:51:38; and Reed Fulghum, Tyler Overby and Sean Ferguson in 1:54:06.