A child holds a handmade sign that says, “Go Daddy” and squints in the morning sunlight as she scans Monterey Bay. She peers about her grandmother’s legs, stands on the tips of her toes, and leans out as far as she is able to over the wharf’s edge in order to get a better view around the other onlookers. Suddenly she cries out, “Here they are! There they are!” as the first triathletes come into sight, swimming around the wharf.
For the 28th year in a row, the Annual Santa Cruz Triathlon, as presented by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, brought a diverse crowd of people out to the beach Sunday morning. The diverse crowd featured everyone from surf shop locals to overseas visitors, well-conditioned veterans to first-time attendees.
While some of the registered triathletes flew in from as far as Switzerland and Russia, most of the competitors getting ready on the beach came from various parts of California. The triathlon boasted a sizeable turnout of nearly 900 competitors at the start of the Sunday race.
Emerging fresh from a preliminary dip in the ocean’s 60-degree water, Mark Lenz, a San Francisco resident, was thrilled to be competing on Sunday.
“I just finished the triathlon in the Gay Games VIII in Cologne, Germany,” Lenz said. “I’ve got a friend from New Zealand here cheering me on today, but what’s important is not to take the race too seriously.”
The triathlon, a difficult competition, includes a 1.5k swim around the wharf, a 40k bike ride from the boardwalk to the city of Davenport and back, and a 10k run along West Cliff. However, it was clear from the smiles of the crowd that the Santa Cruz Triathlon meant far more than medals and race times. To most people, it was about fun.
With the crowd cheering on the athletes, vendors handing lemonade to thirsty passersby, and the athletes themselves giving the occasional thumbs-up between heavy breaths, the morning’s good mood was infectious.
“The Santa Cruz Triathlon is definitely one of my favorite triathlons,” said John Jeha, a 20-time competitor of the Santa Cruz Triathlon. “It’s well-organized, beautiful and really enjoyable. Today’s weather’s looking good, the ocean’s not rough, and the bike route’s OK. Great day to enjoy my life’s sport.”
Kim Jackson, a relay team member of Team Tripod from Palo Alto, participated just for fun, she said.
“I’ve done this race entirely by myself before,” Jackson said. “But this time, it was actually my foot surgeon and his wife that were looking for a third teammate for their relay team this year.”
Hearing her wave called, Jackson turned, lined up with the other competitors and was then lost in the crowd of wetsuits and neon caps disappearing into the ocean surf.
Race coordinator Nick Alaga walked his dog along the bike route, and volunteers from Harbor High School’s girls’ basketball and boys’ wrestling teams could be heard laughing at what one another had to say.
Ed Ferrell, founder of the famous 24-hour Ferrell’s Donut Shops, smiled as the leading triathlete, James Duff, came running past aid station B15 only minutes before completing the race.
Ferrell summed up the day’s experience: “It’s a good race for a great day in Santa Cruz.”