Splashing into a new triathlon season | SierraSun.com

Splashing into a new triathlon season

Emma Garrard
Sierra Sun

Courtesy of Gene MurrietaTriathletes rush into the shallow water of Folsom Lake at the start of the XTERRA Real on Sunday. The race marked the start of the season for many Northern California triathletes.

The start of the XTERRA triathlon season started on a somber note with the sport’s leading lady, Jamie Whitmore, on the sidelines after being diagnosed with a cancerous tumor the size of a baseball in her pelvis.

As Jamie was recovering from nine and a half hours of surgery to remove the tumor, fellow XTERRA racers were getting transition areas ready for the first race of the season: XTERRA Real in Granite Bay.

No matter how cold the water or how many flats we got on the bike course, we had nothing “Real” to complain about. I know I thought about Jamie as we lined up on the shallow shores of Folsom Lake. She usually does this race as it is basically in her backyard.

I didn’t want to know how cold the water was, but I did know it gave me brain freeze when I was attempting to warm up, leaving me cold for the start. The water was so low that halfway to the first buoy racers stood up and started walking. After a 1,000-meter swim around two buoys we headed back to the transition area, which was much farther than usual.

Like Tahoe, the water level at Folsom Lake was very low … we had to run a half mile or more up a sandy beach before we could get on our bikes. It was good for me as I managed to pass two women while running, putting me in third place.

It was a relatively easy bike course ” not a lot of climbing and few technical sections. But there was a lot of twists, turns, mud pits and sand pits on the two loops of an eight-mile course through the woods. You didn’t want to come off your bike either because the trails were lined with poison oak.

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The trail was slightly wet from rain the previous day; it was good for riding in the sand but not the mud. I had only ridden my mountain bike a few times this year, and never very fast, so trying to race felt awkward and I was using my brakes too much. I passed another woman early in the bike, putting me in second but still far from the leader, Lesley Paterson, a professional triathlete racing in her first XTERRA.

At the end of each loop we had to ride through a large mud pit followed by two deep sand pits. I managed to make it through both the mud and sand, giving me a cheer, but it left both me and my bike covered in a mixture of the two substances.

It was painful to hear my chain trying to spin while covered in mud and sand, so after being handed a bottle of Gatorade between laps, I sprayed some of it on my crank to rid it of some dirt.

Once I was done with the bike leg I headed out for a four-mile run. I was optimistic about this part as I had felt strong in previous races. The run course went along the shore of the lake and later climbed up into the woods. It was hard at first, but I gradually got my running legs and started to pick off other racers all the way to the finish. I was the second female to finish with a time of 2:09:34.

I finished relieved to have the first triathlon of the season under my belt. I had raced all but one weekend in March and in more different types of sports and conditions than I can count.

After cleaning off my bike and then myself ” priorities ” I signed a giant poster for Jamie, made of a montage of photos by James Pratt of her racing at Granite Bay. It was hard to find space to write, but then again when put in perspective, nothing that day was too hard.

Other finishers from the Truckee-Tahoe area include Eric Ronning of Incline Village, who placed fifth in the men’s 40-45 age group with a time of 2:05:03. Dane Shannon placed 13th in the 25-29 with a time of 2:28:58, Brielle Bjork finished sixth in the 25-29 age group with a time of 2:42:51 and James Blanc was fifth in the 55-59 age group with a time of 2:57:08. For complete results go to http://www.tbfracing.com.

To help support Jamie Whitmore, friends and family are hosting a ride Saturday, April 5 at Mammoth Bar O.R.V. Park at 9 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. For more information go to http://www.jamiewhitmore.com.