Published on September 1st, 2013 | by Phyl Newbeck0
The Great Race | Race Recap
July 7, 2013
The Great Race has been taking place in St. Albans since 1980. It consists of a 3.1-mile run, a 12-mile bike ride and a 3-mile paddle that can be done by canoe or kayak. More than 50 competitors took part in the so-called Ironman/Ironwoman division and Shari Bashaw, a 51-year-old radiologic technician from St. Albans, finished first among women for the second year in a row (she was also leading in 2011 when the race was called because of lightning). Her time was 1:31:41. In addition to the 54 solo competitors, there were almost 70 teams of two or three people.
VS: How many times have you done the Great Race?
SB: My first one was in 1986 and I think I’ve only missed two years since then. It’s a local community event and I can’t stand to miss something in my home town. It’s really well done and you see a wide variety of people from hard-core athletes to others who just want to do the race and see what they can do for that day.
VS: As an ultra runner, you normally do much longer races. Was it nice to do a course that’s a little less grueling?
SB: It was great. I like changing things up. The transition also helps prepare me for the longer races, although this one is a little different because it starts with the run. It’s harder to go from run to bike than vice versa. It takes my legs a while to adjust. I really love the kayak portion. I was a canoe racer for many years ago, doing events like the 90-mile race in the Adirondacks, but after I had my children I couldn’t travel as much and gave up those races.
VS: What was the hardest part of the race?
SB: The water portion can make a big difference in the race, particularly for inexperienced people. This year the wind was blowing all over the place and there were a lot of people capsizing.
VS: Is this a family friendly event?
SB: Absolutely. I’ve raced with my brother and I started doing the race with my sons when they were 8. It introduces kids to a healthy way of life. What’s nice is they give a lot of awards. There’s a ton of youth doing this and they gave recognition to everyone under 18. The youngest racers were probably 9 or 10. That says a lot about the race and why it attracts so many members of the community. Racing can be intimidating to a lot of kids but this is very accessible.
VS: Are most participants local or there folks from outside Vermont?
SB: Seventy-five to 80 percent are local, but there are also visitors, some of whom come back because they’ve enjoyed it so much. It’s a highly energy-charged race. A lot of triathlons are mostly Ironmen/Ironwomen with very few teams, but this race has a lot of teams and that’s why so many community members do it.
VS: Would you do it again?
SB: I don’t like to miss this race. I started doing the Iron division in 1991 and since then I’ve only done it as a team once or twice, like when I was five months pregnant, and the year the race was right before the Vermont 100 (an annual ultra running race), but I always have it on my schedule.
VS: If you were in charge of the race, would you do anything differently?
SB: I liked the fact that this year they gave more recognition to the Ironmen and Ironwomen. If I had to do something differently, I’d separate Ironmen and women with canoes from those with kayaks because canoes are slower than kayaks. They separate them for the team divisions but not for the solo racers.