Cameron Dye could have run through the tape. Instead, he grabbed it with two hands and victoriously raised it above his head.
Even though it certainly wasn't gift-wrapped, the victory made for a perfect birthday present.
Dye edged out 2016 Olympian Ben Kanute and Pennsylvania-born Jason West for his fifth Philadelphia Escape Triathlon victory, completing the course in 1 hour, 48 minutes, 42 seconds on his 34th birthday Sunday. Sarah Haskins, 37, topped the women's field by nearly a full minute, racing past Alicia Kaye and Sophie Chase for the win in Fairmount Park with a time of 2:01:10.
Three weeks ago, it was Dye doing the chasing as he finished second to Kanute at the Escape from Alcatraz, the series' premiere event in San Francisco. But after missing out on a win on the West Coast, Dye got his revenge on the other side of the country.
"It was good validation that I can still win a race at 34," Dye said. "This year I've had two seconds and a third with the same two guys [Kanute and West] at every race, so it was nice to pull away and to do it on the run, too, because that's always been my weakness."
Dye and Kanute finished the swim in the Schuylkill in the same time, 17:12, and for most of the race, they were neck-and-neck, with Dye slightly out ahead. Kanute then caught Dye around the second mile of the 6.2-mile run before briefly surging ahead near the four-mile mark.
The humidity, even in the early hours, was well above 80 percent, and ultimately it was Kanute's downfall.
"It was brutal," West said. "You just start feeling so heavy toward the end of the run, but you just have to know it's the same for everybody."
With Kanute slowing, Dye narrowed the gap coming up Martin Luther King Drive from the Art Museum before retaking the lead and turning for home with no one else in sight.
"It's fun to race [Kanute] because it feels like racing a version of myself from 10 years ago," Dye said.
Haskins emerged from the water in front but left the transition area 10 seconds behind Chase. Haskins then quickly regained the lead, jumping ahead on the first climb of the bike course.
Fourteen months removed from giving birth to second child, Haskins picked up yet another Escape series victory after winning at Alcatraz earlier in June.
"Last year, my son would have been six weeks old," Haskins said with a laugh. "I was really just getting back into it last year, I knew I wasn't quite at my peak yet, whereas this year I felt like I raced back at 100 percent."
Among the approximately 1,600 amateur competitors were racers as old as 81 and as young as 14.
For the pros, it was the elder statesmen who ruled the day.