It was an ambitious attempt.
A father/daughter team from Joseph, Ashlie McAfee, 14, and dad, Ron McAfee, 57, decided to do the 4th Annual Wallowa Lake Triathlon this year.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, they made their attempt — and not only finished but almost reached a “lofty goal,” Ron said.
Their goal was to finish in 2 hours. Their dream was to finish in one hour and 45 minutes. Their time: 1:49.
It wasn’t easy.
Ashlie is actually too young for the race, which has a 16-years-old requirement, but got special permission from organizer Paige Sully based on the practice she and her dad had put in and the fact that they would run as a team — so Dad was always there.
Or, Ashlie was always there. “I told her I wanted to do it but didn’t want to do it alone,” Ron said.
Ashlie hasn’t been interested in team sports, but the Triathlon with Dad ... that was different.
“She was confident and eager,” Sully said. “I thought she deserved a chance — though you don’t know how it will be until you’re out there. You’ll get kicked a few times, you’ll get hit, you’ll be out in open water when maybe you’re used to swimming along the shore. It’s hard.”
Ron expressed the complicated feelings the team shared. “Six months ago this sounded like a good idea, but now we’re a little nervous,” he said. “But we’ve practiced and we’ve got each other.”
Seventeen-and-a-half minutes later as they emerged in last place, Ashlie admitted the swim took a toll. “The water was harder ... I wasn’t expecting that at all,” she panted.
Minutes later, stripped of the wetsuit and suited for the bike, she was stung by a bee.
“We haven’t got time for this,” said Dad, and they climbed on their bikes for the 12-mile ride to Joseph and back.
“We’re just riding inexpensive mountain bikes,” said Ron. “We weren’t going to invest until we were sure we wanted to do this. But that’s not going to be a limiting factor. It’s going to be our legs or what’s here,” he said, tapping his head.
The ride, it turned out, was their easiest leg.
And then came the run, and Ashlie was tired but game.
Dad, it turned out, was game — but he’d uttered a prophecy earlier: the limiting factor was the legs. Halfway through the 5K, he got a cramp in his leg that never let up.
They didn’t have time for that, either.
Ashlie sprinted across the finish line and then went back to jog beside her limping father as he, too, crossed the finish.
He grimaced and grinned, one after another as he tried to stretch the cramp.
“I’m pretty happy,” he said. “I don’t know how many other 57-year-olds beat our time today.”
And it looked like another prophecy was uttered earlier that day, too. They had each other.
The winner of the Triathlon was Javin Berg, 47, of Dixie, Wash., with a time of 1.02.35. Berg came with several other runners from the Blue Mountain Endurance club of Walla Walla.
Rob Bartal,48, of Richland, Wa. ran a close second with a time of 1:04:47.
“We’ve been here before and we’ve been looking at coming again for a while. The run is a fundraiser for a good cause and it’s a good crew and good event,” he said.
Two well-conditioned teenagers from La Grande, Trace Van Cleave, 17, and Marshal Whitaker, 16, came in third and fourth respectively with times of 1:09:39 and 1:10:49.
The competitor who came the furthest for the event was Timothy Finn, 38, of New Orleans, La (1:27:09).
Two other Wallowa County competitors, Whitney Freya, 45, of Wallowa (1:35:21) and Sara Crawford, 32, of Enterprise (1:51:49) also competed.
Ashlie and Ron are already committed to doing it next year. “I’m proud of myself and I can’t wait until next year,” Ashlie said.
“And we’re trying to talk Mom into it,” Ron added. “She’s uncommitted right now, but I think she’ll do it.”