Who knew the Donner Lake Triathlon attracted the likes of retired Major League Baseball players and world-class mixed martial arts fighters?
It does — evidenced by Sunday's 30th annual race.
While Steven Sexton of Davis and Truckee's Shannon Rahlves easily defended their men's and women's titles, current Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz and former Oakland A's outfielder Eric Byrnes represented their respective sports with quality finishes as well.
Diaz, who's set to fight UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in October, finished 36th overall out of 292 entrants in the International-distance triathlon, posting a time of 2 hours, 46 minutes and 20 seconds. Byrnes, known for his hustle and solid glove work during his 10-year big-league career, placed 76th overall in just under 3 hours, at 2:58:19.
“Well, I like Tahoe, and this is the best road race in Tahoe,” said Diaz, 27, explaining why he's made the trip from his Stockton home “six or seven times” to compete in the Donner Lake Triathlon.
Plus, said Diaz, who also races XTERRA events, training for triathlons year-round gives him an advantage in the cage, thanks to the endurance and well-rounded athleticism it affords.
“It keeps me in great shape. I'll be in great shape when I start training camp,” said Diaz, the fourth-ranked welterweight in the world by MMA Weekly. “A lot of mixed martial arts guys who train only at one sport will fall short at some point in a fight, whereas an all-around good athlete can go further, in my opinion.”
No one looked to argue with him as Diaz, still a bit winded after swimming 0.9 miles, cycling 24.8 miles up Old Highway 40 and back and running 6 1/2 miles around Donner Lake, proceeded to take a photo with a fellow racer's two children.
Byrnes, according to multiple sources, recently began racing triathlons after hanging up his major league jersey in 2010.
Sexton is no rookie to the sport. The 29-year-old Team USA triathlete has owned the Donner Lake Triathlon of late, winning the overall the past five years running.
This time Sexton pulled off the win in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 43 seconds.
“I did some hard work going into the race, so I was kind of treating it as a training day,” Sexton said. “But it's tough. You can't fake this race, with all the hills and the elevation. So it hurt. Always does.”
Sami Inkinen finished runner-up in 2:14:07.6, Christopher Coble was third in 2:18:07, Adam Zastrow fourth in 2:19:49 and Phillip Glenn rounded out the top five in 2:26:24.
Jonathan Shoop, a 2004 Incline High grad who now resides in Truckee, finished sixth with a time of 2:28:43, and Rob Laurie of Incline Village placed 10th overall in 2:30:13. Shoop said he's raced the Donner Lake Triathlon a number of times, starting at age 15.
“It's just such a great race,” he said. “The location is awesome, and the support is great on the roads.”
Laurie, 45, agreed on both fronts. He said he wanted to thank the hundreds of volunteer supporters for their helping hand.
“It was great,” Laurie said of the race. “Perfect weather, and the lake temp was perfect. There was some wind on the bike that I could have done without. It seemed like it was in my face both ways. But it was great.”
Rahlves, who has won the women's title on multiple occassions, this time in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 35 seconds, did not agree about the perfect weather. She said she never warmed up after the swim, which started at 7:30 a.m., when most spectators were still bundled in hoodies. She even skipped her customary cool-down leap into the Summit Creek inlet after crossing the finish line.
“It was freezing out there,” Rahlves said. “The bike was so cold. It was breezier than normal, for sure. I'm still not super warm.”
Heather Lyman finished runner-up among women and 23rd overall in 2:37:48, and Hilary Allen was the third woman and 28th overall in 2:41:31.
Among other top local finishes, Kyle Jorgensen, a to-be senior at Truckee High and the only member of the Chasing Shadows Triathlon Club to take on the International distance, finished 18th overall in 2:36:10. “Usually my run is faster, but I crushed the bike this year,” said Jorgensen, who shaved more than 14 minutes off his 2010 time.
Truckee's Jeff Schloss was 31st in 2:41:48, and Kara LaPoint was the fourth woman and 32nd overall in 2:42:52. Sarah McMahan of Incline Village was the 11th woman and placed 82nd overall in 2:59:53.
Michael Smith raced to a first-place finish in the sprint triathlon in a time of 41 minutes and 18 seconds. Kenny Calder of Reno took second in 42:39 and Stefan Laursen was third in 44:30.
Haley Beann was the top woman and placed fifth overall in 46:11, Eleanor Velez placed second among women and ninth overall in 49:53, and Julia Eyer was the third woman and 11th overall in 50:57.
The sprint triathlon, which had 204 finishers total, included a quarter-mile swim, a 6-mile bike ride up Old Highway 40 and back and a 2-mile run.
Luke Rodarte, 13, posted the best finish among his Chasing Shadows teammates, as he placed sixth in 46:15. But not without feeling some pain at the finish line, evident by the look on his face.
“On the run I had cramps on both sides, so it was pretty painful. But I fought through it,” Rodarte said after catching his breath, adding that he beat his 2010 time by about 10 minutes.
Find complete race results at www.bigblueadventure.com. To view a photo gallery from the race, go to www.sierrasun.com/2011DonnerLakeTriathlon.