TAHOE CITY — Damian Gonzalez dashed across the Commons Beach finish line with a look of pain and achievement.
The 32-year-old Stockton athlete had met his goal, winning the third annual XTERRA Tahoe City triathlon Saturday morning with a time of 2 hours, 42 minutes, 42 seconds — 9 seconds in front of second place.
As the pain faded from Gonzalez's expression, he sought out the man he could not shake from his heels.
“What's your name?” he asked the runner-up, 20-year-old Julian Langer, whom he then congratulated on a first-name basis for chasing him to the finish.
After paying respect to his game opponent, Gonzalez turned to face the media.
“I feel a little worked,” he said between laboring breaths, going on to explain how he passed Langer on the run after the two battled neck-and-neck during the bike leg.
“Julian was in sight the whole time, so he's probably regretting letting me go. But he pushed hard the whole way. I wouldn't be feeling this worked if it wasn't for him.”
As short-course participants trickled in, John Donovan of San Mateo crossed the finish in third place overall (2:45:36), while Eric Ronning of Incline Village finished fourth with a time of 2:50:35.
“I'm exhausted,” Ronning said after pacing the finish area to catch his breath, having just completed the 1,200-meter swim, 22-mile bike and 6-mile run that encompass the full-course triathlon. “I worked really hard, especially on the run.”
Richard Blanco of Redwood City, Ronning's “nemesis” in his 40-45 age group, finished fifth in 2:50:44, and defending champ Ross McMahan of Incline Village placed sixth posting a time of 2:53:37.
On the women's side, XTERRA pro Emma Garrard of Truckee won her third straight XTERRA Tahoe City and took 10th place overall with a time of 2:58:25.
Garrard, 28, was followed by Julie Young of Auburn (3:12:44) and Lisa Heisinger of Mill Valley (3:20:12), while Sarah McMahan of Incline Village came in fifth with a time of 3:26:20.
Dustin Sweet took the win in the short-course triathlon — a 600-meter swim, 13-mile bike and 3-mile run — with a time of 1:53:07, and was followed by Steve Pearl (1:53:17) and Kevin Joell (2:03:46).
“I feel good,” said Pearl after the race, “but I don't want to do it again, that's for sure.”
Incline Village triathlete Dorea Shoemaker was the first woman to finish the short-course triathlon, posting a time of 2:12:22 after signing up just two days prior to the race, she said.
“It was great. I just did it at my own pace,” said Shoemaker, a first-time participant in the XTERRA Tahoe City. “I loved it.”
Sabine Dukes (2:16) was the second short-course woman and Destiny Ortiz (2:17:32) third.
Ortiz, who traveled from Salt Lake City to compete, told dramatic tales of foundering in the cold water during the opening swim leg. She said she was rescued “like four times” from the water, despite her top-three finish.
“I almost died,” said Ortiz, 35. “I think I got motion sickness, because I felt really dizzy. And (the water) was really cold. I wasn't prepared for that.”
Ortiz was one of 47 athletes to finish the short-course race, while 142 athletes finished the full-course, according to the results. It was the best participation in the three-year history of the event, said Race Director Todd Jackson.
To view a photo gallery from the event, go to www.sierrasun.com/photos.