MADRAS — Nancy Richards said the MAC Dash Sprint Triathlon, which was run for the 10th year Saturday, has not changed much over the years. At least, not as much as she has during that time.

“Ten years ago, I was not an athlete in any way, shape or form, and I decided that I wanted to be more active so I could enjoy my grandchildren,” said Richards, 58 and of Madras, who entered the first MAC Dash and has participated in each one since. “And I really enjoy it. It’s become a passion for me.”

Richards was the fifth woman to finish the 500-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 3-mile run, with a time of 1 hour, 22 minutes, 36 seconds.

“This year I added an open-water swim (triathlon) with a slightly longer distance,” Richards said, referring to the Tri at the Grove, which was held in Cottage Grove in July. “And I’d like to try an even longer one next year, possibly.”

Because the MAC Dash begins in separate heats in the Madras Aquatic Center pool — instead of a mass start at an open body of water — and is relatively short for a triathlon, many racers said it was an ideal race for athletes who are new to the multisport world. But many of the participants on hand Saturday said they come back to the Dash almost every year.

“It’s a great beginner triathlon, but there are two hills,” said Denis Mast, 39 and of Bend, who started racing in the MAC Dash eight years ago. “One is on the bike, and that kind of comes out of nowhere out of the turn, and you have to do it twice. And then this big hill up here, that you have to run up. But if you can get past those two hills, it’s a really great race.”

Scott Rowles, 32, won the men’s individual triathlon in 57:48, and 35-year-old Jamie Hurd, who was the women’s runner-up in 2016, beat defending champion Amy Holcomb, 38, with a time of 1:08:28. Elijah McCourtney, 14, won the inaugural “Middle MAC Dash,” a 100-yard swim, 2-mile bike and 1-mile run for boys and girls 14 and under, in 19:22. Mylaena Norton, 9, was right behind in 19:30.

No matter where they finished, many participants said they were just glad they were able to race. The swim leg of the MAC Dash is held in the indoor pool at the Madras Aquatic Center, but Saturday’s bike and run legs through the streets of Madras were held in warm and only slightly hazy conditions, a welcome break from the heavy smoke that covered many areas of Oregon in the weeks leading up to the race. While many recent sporting events were canceled or postponed due to the threat of wildfires or poor air quality, MAC Dash organizers waited until Friday morning to make a final decision about the race.

“Earlier in the week, we were thinking we were going to have to cancel because of air quality,” race director Angela Harris said, noting that she and the organizing committee made numerous calls to the Jefferson County fire and health departments over the course of the week. “We thought, if it’s not good by Friday morning, then we’re probably going to have to cancel, so that was a big challenge. But I know a lot about air quality now, more than I ever thought I would know. More than I ever wanted to know.”

Lindsay Buccafurni, 27 and of Redmond, admitted that smoke limited her training in the weeks leading up to the race.

“You can always get swims in, and then, get runs in at the gym,” said Buccafurni, who competed in the triathlon for the second time. “You can do transitions from bike to run at the gym. Try to take advantage of the days when it isn’t smoky. But yeah, not a lot overall.”

Buccafurni, who works at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, said that as many as 20 COCC employees enter the MAC Dash in some years. One of her co-workers, Ken Davis, 41 and of Bend, said he was hooked after trying the race two years ago.

“I like the swim the best, because I used to be really terrible at it, and now you can see massive improvements,” Davis said. “So I really like the swim, because this event has made me become a much better swimmer.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0305, vjacobsen@bendbulletin.com

18183170