Athletes find a challenge very much to their liking

Athletes like Lesley Hartford literally come out of the woodwork during the Cowichan Challenge triathlon. - Don Bodger
Athletes like Lesley Hartford literally come out of the woodwork during the Cowichan Challenge triathlon.
— image credit: Don Bodger

Ideal conditions, a large turnout of athletes and solid spectator support all added up to a great Cowichan Challenge triathlon Sunday.

The event based at Fuller Lake Park attracted nearly 230 participants — 156 individuals in the main and sprint events plus members of 20 relay teams in the two categories.

It was only back in 2007 when the event wasn’t held due to unsafe conditions on the Chemainus River bridge on the cycling route so it’s been an amazing build-up again in such a short time.

“There’s way more spectators,’’ added race director Janine Frank.

Triathlon veterans and newcomers alike enjoyed the perfect weather.

“We try to keep this grassroots,’’ said Frank.

“We could not do this without the volunteers and it’s hours of work.’’

But Frank puts the call out every year to the CeeVacs Road Runners and friends of CeeVacs to fill the roles of the 60+ volunteers.

The athletes were full of praise for the volunteers and tested their respective limits on the swimming, biking and running circuits.

Sheron Chrysler of CeeVacs has done about a million running events, but this was only her third triathlon overall and second time entering the Cowichan Challenge.

“I absolutely love it,’’ she said. “This is the best triathlon on the planet.’’

It was also by far the best for Chrysler after she was slowed by a flat tire on her bike last year.

“I just felt good the whole way and the volunteers rocked the whole way,’’ she said.

Other prominent CeeVacs members also did their first triathlons or moved up to the longer distance for the first time.

Byron Trajan, 31, of Nanaimo was first in the 1,000-metre swim, 34 km bike and nine km run that made up the main event in 1:45:05, just 20 seconds ahead of valley triathlon legend Jason Sandquist.

“The bike course is tough; overall, I felt really good,’’ said Trajan.

It’s the fourth time Trajan has completed the event.

“I think I’ve gotten faster each year,’’ he said. “It always inspires me to come back.’’

After finishing second to fellow Nanaimo resident Stefan Jakobsen twice, Trajan was happy to take over top spot. Jakobsen still shared in some glory as part of the main event relay team winners in a combined time of 1:52:31.

“I’m always gunning for it,’’ said Trajan. “I never know who’s going to show up. It’s nice to win, but I always want to do a best time.’’

Trajan had to overtake Sandquist, who’s still a triathlon marvel at 43, for the win.

Sandquist heads right into the World Championship Half Ironman qualifier at Lake Stevens, Washington this weekend. He’ll be aiming to earn a spot in the Half Iron World Championships in Las Vegas.

“This is a tune-up to go fast, go short so you don’t wreck yourself,’’ said Sandquist of the challenge.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s nice to be able to race at home.’’

Erik Evans was the winner of the 500-metre swim, 16 km bike and five km run in the sprint event in 55:34 followed by Nick Gottfried in 1:00:32 and Jason Hare in 1:02:47.

Cam McDiarmid came fourth in 1:03:08, with stepson Eric Hartford breathing down his neck four seconds behind. They didn’t actually race together.

“We kind of thought it might turn out that way,’’ said McDiarmid.

“I heard people say, ‘go, Eric’ and then I knew how it was.’’

“We didn’t truly plan it,’’ said Hartford.

Both love the atmosphere.

“It’s a great event,’’ said McDiarmid. “It’s well-run.

“You kind of know everybody. It’s a neat venue that way.’’

Team Tillie won the sprint relay in 1:06:52.

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