The Cowichan Challenge triathlon is one of those great events where the young and old, experienced and inexperienced, meet.
The July 13 running of the swim-bike-run event for 168 solo athletes and members of 15 relay teams — bringing the total participation to nearly 215 — gave everyone at all levels a chance to test their limits while being cheered on by a huge throng of spectators at Fuller Lake Park.
“We had challenges, yeah,’’ said race director Julie Langelo, who took over those duties from Janine Frank. “It’s called the Challenge for a reason.’’
The day started with athletes not donning wet suits for the swim.
“The water temperature for the first time was 26 (C) degrees,’’ said Langelo. “Tri B.C. rules 22 is the limit.’’
Fuller Lake, Langelo said, in comparison to other years “was like a swimming pool.’’
Some athletes weren’t comfortable without wet suits because they help with buoyancy, but in the end, only one swimmer turned back.
In the sprint event, Ladysmith’s Cameron Chanin narrowly beat his sister Courtney to finish first overall in 1:03:35. Courtney finished the race in 1:05:26 and was the top female.
Eighty-one participants finished the sprint triathlon, with an average time of 1:26:02.
Two Cowichan Valley athletes were the respective male and female winners on the main course, Jason Sandquist in 1:48:10 and Jill Ramstead in 2:04:24.
On the main course, 88 people finished the race, and the average time was 2:29:05.
Sandquist, now 45, did his first Cowichan Challenge way back in 1991 when it was at Maple Bay.
“Back then, it was an ocean swim and you had to ride straight up and out of the bay,’’ he recalled. “I remember the bike going out onto the highway and up to Herd Road. I have raced it on and off over the years. It is still one of my absolute favourite events. The organizers do such a great job. I think with the move to Fuller Lake, which seems like a long time ago now, it is much more accessible to the masses.’’
Sandquist has been much more focused on his Ironman 70.3 races the last couple of years. He’s raced in the World Championships three times at that distance in the 40 to 44 age group.
Sandquist still doesn’t find the Challenge a breeze.
“There was some really good competition this year,’’ he said. “It was quite warm by the time we started the run but one of the nice features of the run course is that it heads into the trees pretty much right away and that provides some shade.’’
“I particularly enjoy the Cowichan Challenge course, partly because you tend to be in the shade for most of the race, which is really convenient in this weather,’’ agreed Robyn Zinkan, 14, one of many young people becoming Challenge regulars on the sprint course.
Zinkan was just six when she did her first triathlon in 2006 at UVic. Since then, she’s competed each year in UVic and Qualicum Beach triathlons and added others like the Challenge since getting older.
“Over the years, I have noticed that the number of participants has grown in all the age groups and more and more people are coming out to compete and enjoy themselves,’’ she noted.
“There’s a lot more women doing triathlon now than there used to be,’’ added Langelo.
Training with the Duncan Stingrays for so long makes the swim portion much easier for Zinkan. “Although I train in the pool, the switch to open water doesn’t bother me much,’’ she indicated. “Part of that is probably because I have grown up on Shawnigan Lake and am used to lake swimming.’’
In the relays, the Cycos won the main relay in 1:58:42, while the sprint relay championship went to Team Penn, which finished the race in 1:14:27.
Full Challenge results can be found online at www.racedaytiming.ca.
—with files from Lindsay Chung