Tougher, the better at Kerr Lake Triathlon

Jun. 09, 2014 @ 11:06 PM

For the second consecutive year, Dwayne Dixon claimed the Kerr Lake Triathlon title at Bullocksville State Park. The Raleigh resident coasted Sunday morning, finishing in two hours and 20 seconds to beat his 2013 time by one minute and 34 seconds — and the nearest competitor by nearly six minutes.

About an hour after Dixon finished, Greyson Quarles crossed the finish line at the Vance County Relay for Life event that benefits the American Cancer Society.

Quarles, 73, was the oldest male competitor in a race that featured 193 individual participants. Hillsborough’s Sharon Roggenbuck was the oldest competitor overall at 76.

Quarles regularly competes in triathlons, but this was his first Kerr Lake N.C. Triathlon Series event, which features a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run.

“It’s not just a flat race,” said Quarles, a Raleigh native who owns a house in the Florida Keys. “It tests you because of the hills. And I like being tested. The tougher it is, really, the more I like it.”

Quarles has made a habit of meeting challenges, namely conquering alcoholism.

Quarles started running, initially, to “sweat out” the alcohol, arriving late to work at SAS Institute before running at lunch.

“I’d have all my meetings after lunch because I wasn’t fit to work in the morning,” said Quarles, who kicked his habit cold turkey around the time of his brother’s death 20 years ago.

Quarles did it without the help of Alcoholics Anonymous; he just did it, and quickly noticed an improvement in his running. He thought God was trying to tell him something.

Greyson’s brother, Thom, lost a battle with cancer at 47.

“I saw him in pain that nobody should ever have to go through,” said Quarles. “And of course, it killed him. Enough pain to kill you and it killed him. So that’s pain. I saw him go through pain that I can never experience.”

Greyson and Thom were close, regularly competing against each other in basketball, golf and tennis.

Quarles can’t compete in races now without thinking of his brother and the pain he endured.

“I get out there,” said Quarles, “and I’m hurting and I’m thinking, ‘You ain’t hurting. You don’t know what pain is.’ That motivates me.”

Quarles was second in his age group Sunday, a few minutes behind Doug Fletcher, 72.

Quarles next plans to compete in the Triangle Triathlon at Harris Lake July 16 in Raleigh and isn’t showing signs of letting up after that. 

“I want to set age groups for age 100,” said Quarles. “It’s good for me and I don’t have much else to do. It’s working.”

Dixon repeats as champ

Dixon improved to 2-for-2, winning the Kerr Lake event for the second time in his second appearance in the Setup Events race.

Dixon, 28, led when he exited the water Sunday before making his way across the Bullocksville beach and up the shaded hill to the bike racks. And he held the lead when he started the run, unchallenged unlike his relatively close win last year.

“I was constantly turning around on the bike and didn’t see anybody,” said Dixon. “The only point when I saw the second guy was probably half a mile after the turnaround at the top.”

It was Dixon’s first N.C. Triathlon Series race of the season. He’s been competing in the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals and next plans on racing in the International Triathlon Union World Triathlon in Chicago.

Dixon, a short-course specialist, says the key to the Kerr Lake race is pacing yourself.

‘Fast and furious’

Leigh Warren was reminded of the pacing lesson. The 36-year-old had previously participated in the Kerr Lake Triathlon, but never on a relay team until Sunday.

Warren had the final leg for the You’re Gonna Get Chicked team, also featuring Patty Shoaf and Kelly McLaughlin.

Waiting around was something new for Warren, who followed McLaughlin’s bike run.

“I kind of flew out like a bat and did the first mile too fast,” said Warren. “So it’s a learning experience. I knew this course a little bit, so I know what I was doing because I did it last year.”

Nicole Overeem of Raleigh had the top female individual time at 2:13:58, but Warren was the first female to cross the finish line.

The You’re Gonna Get Chicked squad was the top relay team with a mark of 2:08:07.

“It’s a pretty small race, but it’s a great venue,” said McLaughlin, 36. “They do a good job with a good rolling bike course. Setup puts on a great race and they have for a long time now.”

Shoaf, 44, set the tone for the Durham trio on her swim.

“Hot water,” said Shoaf. “It was a good swim. It was fun. Fast and furious.”

Winning Wright over

Patrick Wright was neither fast nor furious when he started racing. By his own admission, he was fat and lazy.

Wright, 47, now regularly competes in triathlons after starting 13 years ago.

“It keeps me fit,” said Wright, a Chapel Hill resident by way of Hampshire, England. “It keeps me balanced. It keeps me happy.”

Wright is also a member of a Triangle-based swim club. He says triathlons have become a “part of his life.”

Sunday marked Wright’s first race at Kerr Lake since 2011.

“It’s a great course, a beautiful place to come,” said Wright, the eighth overall male finisher. “It’s only an hour’s drive out of Chapel Hill. And then you’re done and you’re home again by the afternoon — which is great because then I can have a nap.”

A well-deserved one, for each of the Kerr Lake Triathlon competitors.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.