National relay championship up for grabs at 16th annual Donner Lake Triathlon race |

National relay championship up for grabs at 16th annual Donner Lake Triathlon race

If the Truckee Fire Department’s relay team is the first team across the finish line Sunday at the 16th annual Donner Lake Triathlon, they’ll be more than the toast of the town – they’ll also be national champions.

“It’s slightly intimidating being in a national championship, but we’ll do our best,” said Truckee Fire Department cyclist Steve Jahnke, who’ll be competing in his first triathlon Sunday. “It’s good in that you get a good feel for how close you compare to the ‘pros.'”

This year’s Donner Lake Triathlon is serving as the first-ever U.S. National Relay Triathlon Championship. Several dozen relay teams, including the Truckee Fire Department’s and three other teams from Truckee (entered as of Tuesday), will vie for national titles in the triathlon which includes a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40-kilometer bike course and a 6.5-mile run.

In addition to cyclist Jahnke, the Truckee Fire Department team will include swimmer Meredith Watson and runner Matt Warren.

The team is coached by Linda Melvin, who has been the fire department’s fitness coordinator for three years. She said entering the triathlon was a natural choice for the firefighters, who must remain in shape year-round as part of their occupation.

“We’ve been doing the training and doing the weights, so we decided we’d do something with (our fitness levels) and enter the triathlon,” Melvin said.

Watson said the toughest part of her leg in the triathlon, the swim, will be adjusting to the cold water in Donner Lake. Because the race is being held in June this year rather than July, the water will be about two degrees colder this year (about 59 degrees).

“It’s cold because the race is a month early this year,” Watson said. “I’ve done the Donner Lake Swim before and it’s surprising how even two degrees can affect how comfortable you are.”

The Truckee Fire Department will also be represented by two individuals in the competition. The 1996 individual female champion (mountain bike division), Carolyn Mariani, will make her seventh triathlon appearance Sunday; she’ll be joined by first-timer Mark Wadsworth.

“I’m worried more about the swim more than anything else,” said Wadsworth, 26. “I’d say my run is my strongest leg, but after the swimming and biking, I don’t know if it’ll still be my strongest.”

Strong women’s team

In the women’s masters (over 40) relay division, Truckee has a strong entry with the “Killer Wails” team which is comprised of Patty Struve (cyclist), Mary Ann Zebroko (runner) and Celeste Miller (swimmer). Last year, Struve and Zebroko teamed up to record a 2:52 (fifth-place) without a strong swimmer (Struve swam and cycled). With Miller now on the roster, Struve expects the team’s time to drop dramatically.

“When I look at the master’s record (2:28), I think we can do a 2:30,” Struve said. “Every member of our team has been racing and doing well in their respective sport.”

Struve said the threesome had already teamed up in some early season events with good results, taking a second place at the Sentinel Triathlon in Santa Cruz and first in the Summit-to-Shore.

“We’ll do the best we can do and have fun,” Struve said.

Other teams entered from Truckee include “Dying to Finish” and “Sierra Sun Squad.” Athletes from Truckee on relay teams or competing individually include: Matt Colburn, Kathy Fallon, Annie Giedt, Nancy McIver, Kelly Moretti, Ken Panziera, George Phelps, Jan Voltz and Dan Warren.

Individuals or relay teams wishing to participate can register through Sunday morning. For registration information, call 757-2012.

Early start date

According to race official Jeannie Briggs, the Donner Lake Triathlon is now being held in June to avoid any conflict with Eppie’s Great Race in Sacramento. Last year, Eppie’s Race and the Donner Lake Triathlon fell on the same weekend.

“We felt that by moving the race up one month, it would give more teams the opportunity to do both races,” Briggs said.

Briggs said there will be only a one-degree difference in the water temperature for the swimmers. The water is currently 59 degrees; during last year’s race the water was 60 degrees.

Volunteers still needed

Briggs said the race is still about 60 volunteers short of being fully staffed. The race needs volunteers Saturday from 10:30 a.m. through 6 p.m. for registration help and volunteers on race day for aid stations, timing and course monitoring.

Volunteers for the triathlon receive a free T-shirt and lunch. To volunteer, call 757-2012.

Road information

The triathlon is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. Sunday at West End Beach at Donner Lake. Due to the race, Highway 40 will be closed from Donner Summit to West End Beach from 6 a.m. to noon. Temporary delays will occur from the corner of South Shore Drive to the West End Beach overflow parking lot from 7:10-10:30 a.m. Delays may take 10-15 minutes.

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