TRUCKEE — In the more than three-decade history of the Donner Lake Triathlon, the International distance has always reigned supreme.
The 32nd edition of Truckee’s popular mid-summer race is set to return to Donner Lake’s West End Beach this weekend, but with one major addition — a half Ironman Triathlon.
“A lot of people are using this for an Ironman training event,” said Race Director Todd Jackson, referring to the upcoming Ironman Lake Tahoe race on Sept. 22. “So I know there are some pretty solid people in it.”
The new half Ironman is roughly twice as long as the International triathlon, also known as the Olympic triathlon. While the International consists of a 0.9-mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike and a 6.67-mile run, the half Ironman beefs up those distances to a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike and a 13.36-mile run — exactly half an Ironman Triathlon.
The two course are much the same but with varying distances. They send triathletes around a triangular-shaped swim course, up a scenic but grueling bike ride along Old Highway 40 and back, and a run around Donner Lake to the finish line at West End Beach. The half Ironman runs twice around the lake, and its bike course extends past the International turnaround point near Kingvale.
With an additional race comes an adjusted schedule. Instead of both the Sprint and International triathlons running the same day, as they have the past handful of years, the Sprint Triathlon will join the Kids Triathlon on Saturday, while the half Ironman and International triathlons will both run Sunday. The action kicks off at 7:30 a.m. each day.
“That was just to make the schedule make sense for everyone,” Jackson said.
About 300 people are signed up to race the half Ironman, making it the second-most popular distance behind the International, which has about 350 entrants, Jackson said. The Sprint has about 250 entries and the Kids Triathlon about 100, he added.
Jackson said he’s unsure which top contenders are competing.
Last year, five-time defending champion and modern course record-holder Steven Sexton of Davis did not race, leaving the door open for 21-year-old Brandon Nied of Reno to capture the International win in a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes on the challenging course.
Multi-time champion Scott Young of Reno finished runner-up in 2:12:58, and Finland native Sami Inkinen of San Francisco was third in 2:14:55.
The women also got a new champion in Reno’s Elizabeth Lyles, who dethroned three-time defending champ Shannon Rahlves of Truckee with a blazing time of 2:22:19.
Rahlves, the sister of Olympic alpine skier Daron Rahlves, finished runner-up in 2:29:40. Joanne Gilchrist of Chico was the third woman in 2:41:08.
In the Sprint Triathlon, which includes a quarter-mile swim, 6-mile bike and 2-mile run, Michael Smith, 48, of Santa Barbara claimed the overall victory for the ninth consecutive year. Smith took the win again with relative ease, posting a time of 39:25 to runner-up Jake Rollo’s 41:37. Fifteen-year-old Andrew Clusserath of Soda Springs took third in 42:04.
Another young local, then-16-year-old Danielle Nivinski of Truckee, captured first place among women and was eighth overall in a time of 46:28. Eleanor Velez, 15, of El Dorado Hills was the second woman and ninth overall in 46:41, while Mirella Terada of Redwood City was third (18th overall) in 51:16.
Like every year, a small army of volunteers is needed to help run the Donner Lake Triathlon. And Jackson could use some more. He said volunteers receive $10 an hour of race credit for their time. Those interested should email email@example.com.