land or sea: Jordanelle event caps TriUtah season
When Emma Garrard rose out of the water in second place on Saturday, she didn’t exactly kick herself.
After all, the first woman to reach dry land at the TriUtah Jordanelle Triathlon was none other than two-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer and Park City resident Summer Schlopy. "That wasn’t much of a surprise," said Garrard, an Xterra series professional triathlete who moved to Park City from Truckee, Calif., to train more than a year ago.
Garrard is aiming for the Xterra USA Championship at the end of September, and the seasoned veteran simply buckled down and took the lead during the transition to the bike. She stretched her advantage on the uphill first half of the bike course.
"I didn’t really know how far the other girls were behind me until I got to the turnaround, and there were a group of about three girls that weren’t too far off, so I just tried to hammer on the (bike) downhill," Garrard said.
Despite nursing a hip-flexor injury that led her to worry about the run portion, she churned out a whopping eight-minute victory over Cottonwood Heights’ Anne Heiner.
Her time of 2:11:22 would have placed her sixth in a very competitive men’s field at the event, which culminates TriUtah’s five-event season at the place where the series began 12 years ago.
More than 550 athletes took part Saturday, down from about 700 last year but enough to keep the roads, trails and waters of the Rock Cliff arm of the Jordanelle swarming with sweaty fitness enthusiasts on a balmy summer morning.
"It’s kind of nice because this is where we started, and each year, this is where we finish," said John Anderson, who founded the series with Chris Bowerbank in 1999. "When we started this race 12 years ago, it was on the basis that there needs to be a better race out there."
The founding duo settled on the Jordanelle for their first foray into triathlon organizing, and its success helped launch the biggest triathlon series in Utah.
"It’s close to the Wasatch Front, it’s beautiful, people really like the bike course, the temperature of the water is perfect this time of year, and I think they like the run," Anderson said. "They like the mix between the road and the trail. It’s a little bit strung out, but they look past that."
Both Olympic and sprint athletes kicked things off with a 750-meter triangular swim in the reservoir near the Rock Cliff beach area. Olympic contestants then biked nearly 25 miles and ran almost six, while sprint entrants biked more than 13 miles and ran just over three.
"The challenge is the swim," Anderson said. "Most people are comfortable enough to say, ‘I can do a bike ride’ or ‘I can do a run,’ and so it’s pushing them to a new level because they’re saying, ‘I’ve never swam before.’"
Anderson said his fingers were crossed when a series of thunderstorms rolled through northern Utah in the days leading up to the event, but the weather turned out to be perfect.
"Some people say it’s a little bit warm, but hey, it’s a lot better than the alternative," he said.
Summit County athletes made a strong showing on their smooth home waters. Following Garrard and Heiner, Park City’s Jennifer Melville, Lesley Rockwood and Schlopy finished 3-4-5 in the women’s Olympic race, respectively.
North Salt Lake professional B.J. Christenson won the men’s Olympic event in 1:59:04 while ramping up for the Ironman championships in Hawaii this October. Christenson, supported by a group of women wearing shirts that read "Beejay’s beeches," was trailing after the bike session but managed to edge out Wyoming’s Jason Crompton by 40 seconds with a blazing run.
"Today was tough," Christenson said. "I wasn’t really trained up for this race, so it was just a hard push from behind to try to catch everybody on the run."
"He’s making his name nationally," Anderson said. "We had some tough racers out today. This event has typically drawn a handful of tough racers every year."
Park City’s Bruno Araujo beat out Oakley’s Jeff Moses to win the men’s 30-34 category in the Olympic race. Other local winners included Park City’s Kevin Samuelson in the men’s 35-39, Midway’s Cathy Morton in the women’s 35-39, Park City’s John O’Connell in the men’s 45-49, and Oakley’s Tom Noaker in the men’s 60-64.
In the sprint distance, Alpine’s Karl Wild beat all comers in 1:09:04. The 44-year-old lifelong triathlete competed in the first Jordanelle race and has returned most years since. "It’s just a great event," Wild said. "If I can, I try to make it every year."
Raising Wild’s eyebrows was River Heights 15-year-old Sean Overy, who landed second in the sprint field in 1:10:41, within sight of the leader. "He’s up and coming," Wild said. "Watch for him in the future if he keeps going."
Sean’s high-school-aged sisters Meghan and Miranda matched their brother’s accomplishment by taking second and third, respectively, in the short course. Pleasant Grove’s Keena Schaerrer won the women’s sprint race in 1:15:20.8.
A runner-up in her age group twice in a row, former Parkite Allison Robbins finally captured the women’s 25-29 sprint title for 2010. The secret to her improvement? A road bike. The 1999 athlete of the year at Park City High School had been at a considerable disadvantage using a mountain bike in past efforts. Things went a little smoother on skinny wheels, but it was still far from easy, she said.
"The swim and bike was pretty smooth, but the run, with the heat, was pretty brutal," Robbins said. "We could have used the cloud cover."
Parkite Mark Sidlow began running triathlons last year as a way of staying in shape beyond his years of playing ruby, and it seems he made a good choice. Sidlow won the men’s sprint 40-44 age division and afterward credited his wife, Vicki, for inspiration. She gave birth to the couple’s son exactly a week prior, after Sidlow had run in an Olympic-distance event earlier that day.
"Just thinking about everything she went through last week, I figured, if she never quit, neither would I," Sidlow said.
Other local winners in the sprint distance included Park City’s Joel Brazle (men’s 35-39) and Jeanne Rettos Logan (women’s 50-54).
Parking was provided by the community of Francis, while South Summit High School supplied the volunteers. The students woke up at 6 a.m., putting out food, handing out T-shirts, and directing participants around the course. TriUtah compensated the students and parents with donations to the SSHS activities program.
Many also gained an appreciation for the perils of triathlon.
"It looks pretty hard," said incoming freshman drill team member Cierra Coil. "I don’t know if I’d want to do it."
Visit http://www.triutah.com for more information on the race series.
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