The Golden State Triathlon has been my season-ending race every year since 2008. It’s a sprint distance triathlon that is very unusual in that it’s draft legal; you’re also allowed to ride in transition. Another feature of note is the post-race beer garden, with two kegs of quality beer from Yolo Brewing. I normally treat this race as a fun season-ender, but admittedly felt a little pressure this time since I was the defending champion, and honestly, my form wasn’t what it was a year ago.
Tammie and I were the only CTCers racing this time, and we drove down to Discovery Park in Sacramento early on race day. The swim is out and back in the American River, or more accurately, upstream and downstream. The start is on the far bank, so you have to either walk over the bridge or swim over to the other side. We both opted for the former.
The current in the river was higher than normal for this race. Three bridges span the river and the course goes under them in both directions. Swimmers are normally routed up the middle of the river, between the concrete bridge supports, but this time we were sent up the outside to avoid the worst of the current. We were also instructed to avoid running in the shallow water. And shallow it was, with several stretches less than 2 feet deep and also teeming with some sort of sea-weed like plant life. I felt okay during the swim, but for some reason had trouble breaking out into clear water and shaking the slower swimmers from my wave. Things finally cleared out by the turnaround and I cruised the down-stream leg alone. As you exit the water you have to climb about 10 wooden steps to get to the top of the bank. They’re always wet from the early-wave swimmers, and I had the misfortune to come out right behind a guy who was painfully slow up the steps with no room to get past. I eventually got to the top and made my way into T1 with a swim time of 14:37, good for 16th of 208 overall and 2nd of 12 in my age group.
The bike is where this race happens. It’s three laps on a closed course and is draft legal. Each lap includes a 180 degree turnaround, a slight downhill loop through a business park, and a return almost to the transition area, with a chicane through some cones. I came out of T1 and quickly bridged up to Jim Silk, a strong swimmer in the age group above me. He tagged on, and after about a minute or two, came around, pulled for maybe 10 seconds, and then said he couldn’t hold my pace. I went ahead alone, passing lots of riders from the two earlier waves. After the 180 turn, I saw that Brian Leighton wasn’t far behind. He’s an incredibly strong rider, also from the AG above me, but suffers on the run. I didn’t wait, but he eventually bridged up, along with a “youngster” that I didn’t know from the AG below me. Brian and I took fairly equal pulls for the rest of the first lap and all of the second, with junior giving us short breaks now and then. Nearing the end of lap two, there was a lot of traffic ahead and I didn’t want to get behind slower riders heading into the chicane. So I cranked it up, flew past maybe 10 cyclists, hammered through the turns and came out of the chicane alone. I debated about waiting up for Brian, but decided instead to just go. I soon saw a Team USA kit up the road, which was Tim Cohee, a 60 year old who recently finished second in his AG at the recent ITU World Championships in Cancun. He had put over 2 minutes on me on the swim, so it took quite a while to reach him on the bike. I went past and he immediately jumped on. We then split pulls for the rest of the last lap, really working well together. With about a half lap to go, we picked up Todd Heinzen, a ridiculously fast swimmer who’s in the AG below me. Todd won the race overall in 2014 and finished second to me in 2015. We all came into T2 together, riding all the way to the racks. My bike split including both transitions was 42:32 for 16.3 miles which ended up being the fastest split in the field. My Garmin reported an average speed of 23.9 mph and a normalized power of 241 Watts.
Todd and I both had quick transitions and started the run side by side. He’s a really nice guy, and I have gotten to know him a bit over the past few editions of this race, both on the course and in the beer garden. Although I didn’t know for sure due to the wave starts, I had a pretty good idea that we were running for the win and would likely finish 1-2 again, with the order yet to be determined. A short while in he told me he wasn’t on form, and that I would soon drop him. While I had no reason to doubt him, I’m sure we’ve all heard some version of “I’m so out of shape…” only to see the person disappear into the distance a short while later. Well for whatever reason I did pull away after the first mile and ran solo out and back to the finish. My run split was 20:02 for 3 miles, which is 6:41 mile pace. My split ranked 8th of 208 overall and 1st of 12 in my age group.
Since there were a few runners on the course ahead of me from the earlier waves, I didn’t cross the line first and had to wait a while to confirm that I had taken the overall win. My overall time was 1:17:11, and Todd finished 2nd overall about a minute back. Tim Cohee finished 4th and Brian Leighton ended up 6th. It’s worth noting that the top six places all went to guys 46 years and older. By the way, Tammie also had a great race and finished 1st of 5 in her age group. We hung out for a while, chatting with other racers in the beer garden, then packed up the car and headed back to Chico. Hope to see some more CTCers at this great event next year.