CAPE MAY - Margate Beach Patrol oarsman Chuck Gowdy did some extra running last winter and thought it might be a good idea to once again compete in the Cape May Beach Patrol Superathlon, which is area lifeguarding's toughest test.
It turned out to be a good idea.
Gowdy dominated the rowing portion of the triathlon Monday night but was also strong in the swim en route to winning the 31st annual race by more than a half-minute in 42 minutes, 26 seconds.
Michael Barrett of Ocean Beach II, a beach patrol in northern Ocean County, finished second in 43:07 and Stone Harbor's Tim Hayes third in 43:30 in his first Superathlon.
"It feels awesome to win it," said Gowdy, 29, who last entered the event in 2008. "It's an accomplishment to be able to win with the talent here. I was excited to be in there with those guys. I think this is the first time I ever won a lifeguard race that wasn't all rowing."
Gowdy has seven career wins at the South Jersey Lifeguard Championships, tying him for the all-time record with Ashton Funk, his Margate rowing partner, and Ventnor's David Funk, who is Ashton's brother.
Gowdy competed in the Superathlon three times previously, getting fifth in 2005, third in 2006 and 11th in 2008.
"I took a couple years off because there was a lot of rowing to do in town," Gowdy said. "After all the running I did this winter, I figured I'd give it a shot."
The race started at 2nd and Beach Avenues, and Upper Township's Ford Palmer dominated the 2.3-mile running leg. He led by about 200 yards when the 13 competitors finished the run at Poverty Beach.
Gowdy assumed command a quarter-mile into the row and had a 60-yard lead over Barrett when the leg was completed at Congress Beach. Gowdy stayed in control and kept the lead in the quarter-mile out-and-back swim that ended at Cannone Beach.
"Compared to the other guys, I figured I was middle-of-the-pack as a swimmer, but I blew it out and gave it all I had," Gowdy said. "I came in a little south of the mark. I thought I had a pretty good lead and that I could hold it."
Barrett did his first Superathlon last year, finishing third.
"I tried to go out as hard as I could in the run, and did better than last year," said Barrett, 29. "I definitely want to do it again. I caught a couple guys in the row."
Third-place finisher Hayes, a former University of Virginia swimmer, was sixth after the row and closed it to third in the swim.
"You always want to win, but I'm pretty satisfied with third," said Hayes, 23. "My teammates on the patrol were pretty happy. I had a pretty good row. I'm more comfortable in the boat this year. I've been working on the row with Kelly Bainbridge (Stone Harbor's champion women's singles rower)."
Ocean City's Dan Brady had a good row and placed fourth in 43:47.
Bick Murphy, the Superathlon's eight-time champion, was Wildwood Crest's representative after John Maloy didn't return to the patrol this season. Murphy finished fifth in 45:13.
Matt Horn, Sea Isle City's original entry, was sick Monday, and teammate Michael Vallen entered his first Superathlon on about 10 hours' notice. He placed 10th in 48:44.
"I didn't have a good row, but I passed a couple guys in the swim," said Vallen, 19. "I was fourth in the run, and really ran hard. I'd definitely like to do it again."
Contact Guy Gargan: