Athletes put tri skills to the test
Zestful vibes filled the warm morning air at West End Beach last weekend for the 24th annual Donner Lake Triathlon, from the amped competitors to their supportive rooting sections to the spirited announcer at the finish line.”It’s so fun,” Truckee resident Conrad Snover said moments after his second-place finish in Saturday’s sprint race. “Just a local grassroots race – no pressure, local scene, super fun. A race like this 10 minutes from my house, you can’t beat it.”Snover, 30, who amazingly had plenty of breath to speak without a huff or a puff almost immediately after completing the race – in 40:43 – sat in first place upon completion. But he was in the first wave of racers, before last year’s sprint winner, Michael Smith of Santa Barbara, finished in 37:31 to clinch his second sprint title in two years.Snover realized that Sunday’s International Triathlon would be a lot tougher.”[Sunday] is more of a long shot,” he said, not knowing he would place 14th overall with a time of 2:21.22 on Sunday. “There are a lot more variables.”Last year’s Sprint and International Triathlon winner, Shannon Rahlves of Truckee, retained her title in the sprint race Saturday, with a time of 44:07, but placed fifth among the women and 43rd overall on Sunday, with a time of 2:33.07.”They’re really great,” Rahlves, 30, said of the annual triathlon, which attracted more than 1,200 athletes this year from states across the West. “They’re all the same. It’s nice to have it at home.”Perhaps nobody at the event had as much energy as 26-year-old Jon Epsteyn of Reno. In fact, everyone combined may not have matched Epsteyn’s enthusiasm after he dashed across the finish line in 49:58, for 36th place overall.”I think I killed it,” Epsteyn said of the sprint race and how well he did. “I’m ready to do another one right now. My energy level is as intense as these mountains surrounding me, and man, I’m just so amped up, dude. Just killin’ it out here. It’s awesome.”Asked if he planned on entering the international event the following day, Epsteyn explained that the sprint was his first ever triathlon and he wanted to see how he placed this year before entering the longer, more taxing race.”I just wanted to see where I placed this year,” Epsteyn said. “Hopefully first because I’m a damn competitor and I got it running through my blood. I wanna win, because I’m a winner, a winner in life, a winner all around, man.”Most competitors complained that the steep bike ride up Highway 40 was most difficult. But for Epsteyn it was the opening leg of the race that gave him some trouble.”The bike and run was easy to me, but the swimming killed me,” he said. “I haven’t been swimming as much as I should, and thank God I knew the breath stroke and used to swim a long time ago because it really helped me out.”Davis resident Kari Bianchini, 23, did not display Epsteyn’s fervor after the race, but had energy enough during the sprint race to finish eighth in the women’s class and 46th overall in 51:42.”It was a pretty tough little course,” Bianchini said. “I felt good on the bike and then on the run my legs were just gone. But it was definitely fun.”Steve Roth of Reno, a 25-year-old who would have been in the heavyweight division if there were one, said he had a blast in his first-ever triathlon.”It was fun,” Roth said of the sprint race, which he placed 246th with a time of 1:09.04. “I’ve been training for about three months and it was right about what I expected.”Asked if he felt the difference in elevation from Reno to Donner lake, Roth replied, “Oh yeah. When you’re swimming. It just took so much more energy.”Denis Honeychurch, a 58-year-old competitor from Fairfield, said this year’s race was about the 15th for him. Honeychurch said he was satisfied with his 41st place finish, in 50:37, mainly because he accomplished his set goal.”I was racing against my coach who is the same age,” Honeychurch said. “I think I beat him by about 20 seconds.”Honeychurch also competed in Sunday race, where he placed 159th in 2:51.58.Alistair Eeckman, who at 10 years of age already has competed in four triathlons, finished Saturday’s sprint in 1:01.29, for 163rd place. Was he intimidated by the big boys and girls in the race? “Kind of,” he said, “but I just try to win.”Scott Young of Reno took first place for the eighth straight time in the International Triathlon.