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Irwin man wins Pittsburgh Triathlon; former CMU student takes women's race

| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, 1:51 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Athletes make their way to the edge of the river as they complete the swimming leg of the 17th annual Pittsburgh Triathlon & Adventure Race on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, along Pittsburgh's North Shore.

Chad Holderbaum is accustomed to racing long distances for hours at a time in Ironman events, so Sunday's Pittsburgh Triathlon required a slightly different approach.

The international distance race, consisting of a 1,500-meter swim in the Allegheny River, 40K bike on the I-279 HOV lane and 10K run along the North Shore, meant a faster pace throughout, but Holderbaum handled it with ease and won with a time of 1 hour, 59 minutes and 26 seconds. Holderbaum, who turned pro two years ago, also won in 2011 and finished second in 2012, the last time he raced at this short a distance, he said.

Alden Basmajian of Bloomfield, N.J., was second with a time of 2:00:18, and last year's champion, Eric Angstadt, was just behind him, finishing in 2:00:55.

“I've been coaching Eric the past two seasons, so it's exciting,” said Holderbaum, 34, of Irwin. “I think this is the first time I've had to race one of my athletes that I coach. I see the work he puts in day in and day out, and it really shows, too, being at the top of this field.”

Holderbaum and Angstadt are both members of the Pittsburgh Triathlon Club, as well as the Nos. 4 and 5 finishers, 2009 champ Colin Gundling and David Wirth. Gundling and Angstadt are both currently training for the Half-Ironman World Championship on Sept. 7 in Quebec.

Angstadt was leading the race coming out of the water, but Holderbaum caught him toward the top of the first hill on the bike, surged ahead and led from there on out.

“It's tough when you run into your pro triathlete coaches, but what are you going to do? You have to race who's there, and you're going to run into them at the world championships anyway,” said Angstadt, 29, of Ohio Township. “I have to get used to it sometime. It'll definitely give me motivation the next month during that last building block before worlds.”

There were 208 entrants in Sunday's race, many of whom had to finish in the downpour and thunderstorm that swept across the city in the morning. Last year's race had 345 entrants.

Jen Sung, a 24-year-old former Carnegie Mellon student who lives in Baltimore, was the women's champion, finishing in 2:29:25. She had to run the last half-mile through the torrential rain. A longtime swimmer, Sung only started competing in triathlons last year. She did last year's Pittsburgh race and finished ninth in 2:29:56.

“I was the first one after the swim but the bike is my worst leg and I was getting passed a lot,” she said.

Sung made up the ground on the run, however. Jeannette's Sara Gelder, 28, finished second in 2:31:55, followed by Jen Sober, 41, of McHenry, Md., with a time of 2:32:46.

While four of the top five men's finishers knew each other well, the second-place finisher was just in town for the weekend visiting his brother, who lives in Regent Square, and decided to jump into the race. He also is building up for the Half-Ironman World Championships.

“This is my last tuneup race for it,” said Basmajian, 31. “The swim was strong, and I had to pull some people on the bike. I tend to be a strong runner, so I came off the bike in good position and caught one more person on the run. I enjoyed it. It was great competition and a solid group of guys out front.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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